Mani Ratnam, in his 25th directorial venture, sketches characters that are real. People like Officer VC and Leela fromKaatru Veliyidai are all around us.
Mani puts hot-and-cool colors to the baggages of male ego. Karthik Subbaraj had done this last year with his film,Iraivi, where he showed how actions taken by men affect the women in their lives. On the contrary, Kaatru Veliyidaihas only two main characters. They are attracted to each other beyond normal levels of sanity as ‘love’ (usually) transcends these very borders.
Karthi’s VC (fighter pilot) is too full of himself; sometimes bordering on narcissism. Then, we have Aditi Rao Hydari’s Leela Abraham (doctor), a woman of substance and vulnerability. VC pulls Leela to his side with his charm-upped-by-sunglasses, and Leela keeps going back to him like a moth to a flame. Even though Leela burns her self-esteem by giving into VC’s orders every time, she doesn’t make her way out of the relationship for she can’t see herself without him.
Perfection in all aspects is nearly unattainable. Every person (on the street / in a movie) has some sort of a flaw. Mani’s characters invariably wear that on their shoulder. According to this theory, VC’s arrogance and male chauvinism are his flaws; and Leela’s nature of returning to the man who manhandles her and loves her, at the same time, is her flaw. The reason this piece is titled “Kaatru Veliyidai is a Thesis on Character Study” is for pointing to these ‘flaws’.
The feeling that VC carries – “I’m great and everybody else comes after me” – should not be celebrated in any particular manner. Unfortunately, our real-world has many such people. Mani had drawn instances from our society for his previous film, OK Kanmani, as well. Aditya (Dulquer Salmaan) and Tara (Nithya Menen), in the movie, get married in the end because many live-in partners opt for marriage in India.
Unlike OK Kanmani, Kaatru Veliyidai is a philosophical romantic drama; in the sense that the male lead goes through a sea of change before the film ends. This character arc is narrated through vignettes that are shared between the leads. Also, there are many blanks that are left unfilled. Mani cooks his meal and expects the viewers to come to the table and taste the food. He doesn’t want to spoon-feed his viewers.
Here are some tiny cases to prove my point: Karthi is named VC in the film. He’s called Varun by his friends. We don’t know what ‘C’ stands for until we’re introduced to his father, Chakrapani. Now, we’ve to put these two together, and understand that VC means Varun Chakrapani. Similarly, in one of the early scenes, VC breaks up with Girija Kapoor (Shraddha Srinath). When Girija demands an explanation from him as to what transpired between her father and him causing them to separate, VC only mouths a poem. The exact exchange of dialogues between Girija’s father and VC is not shown at all.
Hence, with a screenplay like this, it looks like a novel of 1,000-pages has been reduced to a 2-hour-27-minute movie.
Mani unspools VC’s character bit-by-bit. In the beginning, we’re listening to VC’s internal monologue (a narrative device mastered by Gautham Menon) who’s been jailed in Pakistan (sort of a prisoner of war as the movie is set during the Kargil War). We, soon, learn that he’s smitten by a free-spirited woman named Leela. His subsequent escape from the prison cell (which reminded me of Shankar Nag’s 1980 film, Minchina Ota, where Anant Nag and his accomplices make an escape in a similar fashion) is replete with tension and fervor.
Throughout the course of the movie, we’re cursing Karthi for inflicting humiliation on Aditi. In fact, in one of telling scenes, VC yells at his father for shutting up his mother. What he fails to realize though, is that, he’s also the same with his woman. Again, through monologues, we’re told to believe that this kind of hypocrisy is somewhat mitigated. Does it really happen? Or, is it just lip service? We’ll never know as the things that roll out after the end credits are not for our consumption as viewers. As thinkers, however, we still have a choice of continuing the story of VC and Leela in our heads.
Written by - Karthik Keramalu
Watch Fully Filmy's 2 minute review for Kaatru Veliyidai here:
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