In Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai (Breezy Expanse), the breeze(hero) is wild and still tries to make us fall in love with his story.
Like every love story, the boy (Varun) and the girl (Leela) meets and you know that they are falling in love. But here, our hero is a fighter pilot who fought in Kargil War. He met with an accident and Leela is the doctor-in-charge who takes care of him. After he recovers, the normal flirting goes on and eventually they fall in love with each other. But the villain in this love story is the hero himself. He’s *quoting from the film’s dialogue* “selfish, self-centered, arrogant”. The film is about the conflicts which arise because of VC and how the war/separation from Leela changes him as a person.
Coming to the positives, there are quite a few. Starting with Ravi Varman, the cinematographer because of whom Kaatru Veliyidai is visually cinema at its best. Every visual is breathtaking. Someone said it right. You can just watch the film on mute and still fall in love because of those beautiful visuals. The next layer which we feel is the sound. The exquisite sound design of fighter planes and the brilliant background score elevates the visual experience.
Speaking of sound and music, we should discuss about A.R. Rahman. I confess. I’m out of words to describe this genius. While writing this, I wanted to mention my favourite track from the film and started recollecting all the songs. Is it the beautiful “Nallai Allai”? Heavenly melody “Vaan”? Insanely addictive “Azhagiye”? Full on wedding feel of “Saarattu Vandiyila”? Electric “Jugni”? or the quirky tango one? I give up. I can’t choose. The favourite changes every week/month. In addition to these wonderful songs, the background score is equally brilliant. The one in the escape sequence and especially Jugni which is an electrifying experience. His music is an integral part of the film just as his previous work with Mani Sir.
Now comes to the man who could easily be the most hated hero of Mani Ratnam’s romantic films. VC is on lines of Madhavan’s character from Yuva. But there, he is a proper villain and so it’s fine. But here, he is the leading man. Karthi did a great job in getting all those negative adjectives perfect. His performance is consistent throughout. But the best scene is the climax where he breaks down. Aditi’s character is the stronger one. After a point, you feel like why she’s still putting up with him? Exactly then, the awkward looking RJ Balaji asks her friend the same question to which she replies – “It’s love”. That line defines the character of Leela and Aditi brings in so much freshness to it. Leela is like an Imtiaz Ali heroine who tries to fix/change the man and Aditi already been in one (Rockstar) could become Leela easily. In a way, the film is through her perspective and how she changed that male chauvinist. Not to mention, her beautiful dancing in Vaan and Saarattu..
Finally to the man himself, Mani Ratnam. At the age of 61, this man is still exploring the love between young people and you know what? He surprises with his findings every time. In this beautiful painting, all the color combinations might not be perfect. But he, being the magician, covers it up beautifully with his story-telling and those memorable shots (like the car windshield one).
On a whole, the only disturbing thing in Kaatru Veliyidai is its leading man. Not Karthi, but the character Varun (VC). Selfish, arrogant, sexist, abusive, reckless.. Can you imagine all these adjectives for a single character in a film that too for the leading man? How can you look through these and still feel for his love story? We are used to love stories in which the man and woman are mostly good people, well-behaved (Not the stalking ones). Though there are countless commercial films where the hero does anything with the heroine and still covers it up as comedy mostly, the conflicts in real intense love stories arise because of external factors in some cases and difference of opinion between the pair. But what if one of them himself/herself is not at all likeable?
It’s not like these are pure fictional characters. We know men like Varun. We know women like Leela who’re strong and willing to forgive a man to a certain extent and still love him. The film/Mani Sir just tries to put a mirror and show the reflections of all those real people. Since it is made for wider audience, you got to have a happy ending where the man gets self realization (Thanks to Kargil War) and they live happily ever after!
I know it’s stupid for me to rate a film directed by Mani Ratnam, the man because of whom I fell in love with movies and keep falling for his magic. But, here you go.
I’m going with 3 and half stars.