Kaatru Veliyidai

“The toxic romance that is Kaatru Veliyidai” screamed one review. “Emotional abuse is not love!” grimaced another. A third claimed it was pure poetry and a fourth was gushing about Mani Ratnam embracing fifty and more shades of gray. Bewildered by all this noise, the underwhelming trailer and the overwhelming PR, I was considering giving this movie a miss until better sense prevailed. So I made a day out of it and watched the film on the big screen all by myself. I mean that literally as I was the only one in the movie hall, which therefore enhanced the movie watching experience a thousand fold.

(Spoilers are scattered freely in this review, so if you’ve managed to avoid hearing them so far and want to keep up the good work, please listen to Nallai Allai instead and have an enjoyable day ahead. Otherwise..)

Kaatru Veliyidai is the story of a Mani Ratnam heroine and a Mani Ratnam hero, streaked with gray. This time around, it is the story of Leela, the lovable doctor and VC, the dashing pilot. The first hour of Kaatru Veliyidai is perhaps almost flawless in its introduction of its leads to each other and to us. Leela, the incurable romantic watching the snow flakes descend from the skies as she enters Srinagar while the refrain of Vaan varuvaan wafts in the background. VC, sporting sunglasses and a girlfriend, recklessly and thrillingly driving his automobile, setting the stage for a terrific crash and a meet (which is sort of cute) with Leela, as she gazes into his eyeballs and shines a torch-light into them in the hospital to check if they are responsive.

The hilarious scene with VC (played superbly by Karthi) hobbling out of the hospital quoting Bharathi to his angry girlfriend, as he ditches her while literally using her as a crutch is easily the most well written character revelation scene in the entire movie. Unfortunately, this promising beginning of an enjoyable gray in VC’s character later turns into big blotches of black  and white. (It is interesting and a little disappointing to note that no such attempt has been made to make Mani Ratnam’s heroines less adorable or more complex.)

The course of love initially runs smoothly as the couple euphorically float in the air (in a plane), whisper sweet nothings into each other’s ears (again, it’s beautiful to see Mani Ratnam showcase this literally) and transition from referring to each other in third person to using the pronoun “You” (“What does VC think?” “How does Leela feel?” Or maybe I’m reading too much into this and there was simply a secret Malayali script writer lurking in the background). This is the part of the movie where you sit with a big smile on your face, which simply refuses to go away.

The warning bells start ringing when Leela and VC are near a snowstorm and VC does not take kindly to Leela behaving like a five year old and threatens her, instead of treating her like an equal (which in his defence, is a bit hard to do). And things start going from bad to worse on the grim side, and good to great on the nice side. One moment, VC is adorably twirling Leela all around the house going “I can’t hear you say I love you!” and the other moment, he’s twisting her arms condescendingly saying “Women, my dear ..” (you know that sentence can never end well). This is excellent material on paper, but on screen, the idealistic moments shine through but the darker moments are *told* rather than shown to us. For instance, we are informed repeatedly by RJ Balaji that VC is an asshole, and by others that VC only likes himself (On a side note, my biggest grouse with this movie is the casting of RJ Balaji and the amount of screen time his character gets)

The songs are superb and superbly used, but Nallai Allai is my pick of the album and also the best *placed* in the movie. Mani Ratnam uses it as a serenading song sung by VC to woo Leela back after an argument and a clash. VC stands on his car, towering over Leela and passionately announces that she is in fact so much bigger than him. Some exquisite staging there!

Aditi Rao Hydari as Leela is a lovely fit and the dubbing is delectable. Who dubbed for her, I wonder ? Karthi, apart from a pained smirk one too many, is debonair and dashing when he is good and moody and manic when he isn’t. R J Balaji should not have been in the movie, nor his character. KPAC Lalitha as the Nurse and Delhi Ganesh as Leela’s grandfather are wasted in their minuscule roles, though it does feel good to see them on screen (watch out for a lovely photo of Delhi Ganesh in one of the frames). Everyone and everything looks gorgeous, the scenery breath taking, though I wish Aditi had worn more layers of warm clothing.

Push and pull, pull and push. The film swings as Leela sways towards and away from VC, almost losing her balance in the dance of Life. But then she realizes that explanations, rationales, reasons, opinions, fears ….don’t matter. At the end of the day, she needs to ask herself and VC just one question. “Yes or no?”  It takes seven years and a journey across seven hills and seas (and a prison break) for VC to give her his answer. But Kaatru Veliyidai leaves you with the question that it never finished answering. What do you say to Love if it is not tempered with Respect ?







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One Comment on “Kaatru Veliyidai”

  1. anon Says:

    I usually really like Mani Ratnam’s work but had skipped this one. Thanks for your review, feel like I might still enjoy it.

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