Got to watch Kaatru Veliyidai amidst a cacophony of people who kept hammering me about how slow it is and how painful it was to watch.
Given that we have an attention span of baby mice, I didn’t take the ‘slow’ comments seriously. I mean this was a crowd that once said Aaranya Kaandam was slow !
The hardcore Mani fan that I am (I have posters in my room!) I valiantly ignored all the slights at the master craftsman and walked in with a certain pride.
As the screen read A Mani Ratnam film, the fanboy in me took over and it was all hoot and scoot as the snazzy credits opened up with a terrific aerial warfare in the background.
But as the minutes rolled on, I understood the criticism wasn’t so uncalled for.
To be honest, for all its technical brilliance and a rousing score by ARR, I did not connect with the movie at all. Or let’s say, I did not connect with the story.
Kaatru Veliyidai is primarily a character study of the lead pair, VC and Leela, their improbable love and destructive nature of it. Revealing more will reveal the film so we will leave it at that.
Now, in any character study, the audience is solely dependent on the lead pair and how they work together. We depend on down to the last details analysis of both these characters for us to care enough about them and their tribulations for more than 2 hours. That, we do not get in Kaatru.
We need to know more about VC for us to tolerate him and his antics throughout the movie. Or we needed an actor who could visually convey all that without a solid back story. The only actor who I think can do that is Kamal Haasan who is well over 60 now.
No, this is not about Karthi or his performance. He has done his best, especially during the climatic sequences. Just that he looked so out of place in the whole thing. You could visually see his struggle to get into VC.
Aditi Rao Hydari looks ethereal, like God just decided to carve her out of ice and icing. She has played Leela to a perfect T and looks absolutely convincing as the dreamy yet unflinching Leela. All through the movie, I wanted to tear open the screen and save her from the terrible clutches of VC who hardly has any redeeming qualities or a solid backstory to back his behavior.
The problem with Kaatru is the moment you found VC unconvincing, the story goes for a toss. The crucial establishment shots for us to understand why VC is this arrogant prick is shown through rushed scenes at VC’s house and subsequently at the hospital . The actors portraying VC’s family who I never felt for a moment were anywhere close to VC, look outlandish and uncomfortable. All of them being unfamiliar faces did not help the case. The unnecessary posturing with VC’s bhabhi felt forceful and pseudo progressive.
Once I started to hardly care about VC, the rest of the film was just a procession of scene after scene. Not that they weren’t brilliantly shot or had a few clever bits, but once the audience ceases to care about the lead character, its just going through the motions.
I was more interested in the possibilities of RJ Balaji and Rukmini Vijaykumar. That had more realism and believability than the lead pair.
Summing up the movie, Baradwaj Rangan had written that this was not a great movie, but it was pure cinema. Though initially perplexing, I kind of understand the meaning of this now. Kaatru has some of the most dazzling filmmaking chops in composition and visual storytelling. The use of mirrors, VC and Leela’s POV shots, the epic landscape — Kaatru showed the veteran Mani Ratnam in his edgy self where the legendary filmmaker isn’t shy of trying new ways of visual storytelling and a few lessons for the younger crop to catch on. Sadly this remains a mere gift wrapping to a story that hardly made me feel.
Perhaps, the milieu in which the film is set, the jaw dropping Himalayan mountains, best describes the film -
Breathtakingly beautiful to look at, but way too cold and distant for us to live in.
This is a highly personal opinion and reflection and does not in anyway recommend or discourage people from watching the movie.
Written by - Adithya Raghavan