The filmography of Mani Ratnam is such that you as a viewer automatically tend to dwell in to the inner statements of an expression on a character’s face or the composition or framing of a scene. When it comes to his latest movie Kaatru Veliyidai, we do get to experience these elements in Mani Ratnam’s narrative. Set in the backdrop of Kargil war and narrated as an arrogant man’s self realization experience, Kaatru Veliyidai goes through ups and downs in its 140 minutes of runtime.
Fighter plane pilot Varun AKA VC and doctor Leela are the central protagonists of Kaatru Veliyidai. Varun is this arrogant, self centered character who isn’t really sure about a committed relationship. But with his flamboyance he manages to woo Leela, the doctor who cured him after an accident. The movie is ultimately about their relationship, how it grows, how the commitment fear of Varun causes issues and how the separation caused by the war helps him in finding an answer.
Its Mani Ratnam and he doesn’t create scenes that will describe characters through verbal explanations. Even though it is narrated in a back and forth manner, the prime focus is on the past where the relationship between our lead pair happened. Like most of the Mani Ratnam romantic tracks we get to see this cheerful connect between two people without any cheesy dramas. The impulsive reactions of the couple are a bit mad, but it has that warmth of love in it. Mani Ratnam also builds that tension of commitment, a strong independent woman with self respect and the unsure character of our hero in a very effective way. But where I felt the movie went a little off road was in convincingly depicting Varun’s life as a prisoner and his escape from there. The detailing of that phase isn’t much of a concern when you look at the entire plot. But we do tend to expect some conviction in it as the man behind this film is Mr. Mani Ratnam. I was expecting a little more depth in those areas as it plays a key role in Varun’s transformation as a more sensitive emotional guy.
If I am not wrong Karthi hasn’t done a role like VC in his entire career. Almost all his characters were these rough, semi comical or rude characters with that rugged Tamil flavor. This time as an army man he gets a wider canvas to play a character with a wider span of emotions. From being the charmer to being the insecure guy who doesn’t know whether he is eligible for a committed relationship and to become that lover who is in search for his love, there is heft in VC and Karthi wonderfully essays that on screen. Aditi Rao Hydari also pulls off a stunning performance as Leela. The vulnerabilities and the demanding nature of Leela were portrayed very impressively by the actress. Her amazing good looks only add more earnestness to the portrayal. Apart from these two there isn’t much for the others.
Coming back to the making style of Mani Ratnam, the romance is the core of this movie and he has managed to find depth and complexities in that aspect. At the precise moment when we as an audience might think why the hell Leela is still behind Varun, the character Nidhi explains the reason to Dr Ilyaas (played by RJ Balaji). Like I already said, the only major glitch you will find in this movie is in the prison life part of VC. The trailer gave a feeling that those portions will play a defining role in the movie and if you look at the story, that part is the area where VC finds all the answers. But in the midst of all that Shawshank Redemption and truck stunts, Mani Ratnam sort of loses the grip on his content. Ravi Varman’s frames are gorgeous and like many of Mani Ratnam’s films some frames even communicate without many dialogues. A R Rahman’s music is brilliant and the song that stayed with me after watching the film was Nallai Allai. Sreekar Prasad’s cuts were pretty effective. The visual effects weren’t that great.
My take on Kaatru Veliyidei is that it has all that Mani Ratnam elements one would expect when he handles romance. But there are depth issues in the writing in some key areas which makes the film look a tad perfect.
Kaatru Veliyidei has all that Mani Ratnam elements one would expect when he handles romance.