Kaatru Veliyidai: A Fighter Plane That Has Lost Its Mission
Movie Review by Team Rocheston (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
We have watched Manirathnam’s films now for more than three decades. From Pallavi Anupallavi to OK Kanmani, he has been the torchbearer of romance and relationships. What has always stood out in his films is the topicality of the romance.
For three decades, he has been spot on with the time reference of romance. Unfortunately, in Kaatru Veliyidai, we see an exhausted director devoid of fresh ideas. Clichéd scenes and point of references plague this disappointing romantic film.
Set during the Kargil War in 1999, Kaatru Veliyidai is an eccentric love story revolving around two central characters, V.C (Karthi) and Leela (Aditi Hydari Rao). V.C, an Indian Air Force Pilot, is an aggressive, eccentric man with chauvinistic views who takes what he wants, when he wants. Leela is a trauma doctor stationed at Srinagar to treat wounded civilians. When a complicated V.C meets a dreamy Leela, they are immediately drawn to each other like drops of water. But very often they find themselves in troubled waters due to V.C’s uncontrollable temper and chauvinistic views. Whether their journey transcends boundaries or falls like a house of cards forms the rest of the story.
When a director like Mani Ratnam makes mistakes other fledgling directors can afford to make, they get magnified manifold. The screenplay is slow-moving, but that isn’t what’s wrong with the film; the problem lies in its inability to convince the audience of its portrayed eccentricity by using elements of a not-so-extraordinary script. Similarly, the problem isn’t with V.C quoting Bharathiyar, rather it is the absence of justification behind his perceptions and reasoning.
In his earlier films, Mani Ratnam has created character sketches of protagonists that have impactful and memorable personalities with multi-layered shades of gray. In Kaatru Veliyidai, he has dabbled with a protagonist who only has shades of black.
After Paruthiveeran, there are moments in Kaatru Veliyidai that validate Karthi’s performance in this film as one of his best. He carries off his role of an aggressive officer by assuming a menacing personality. However, failing to tap the potential of the wide scope that the character allows is a clear shortcoming of the film. His character is devoid of the kindling magic and charisma that both Madhavan had in Alaipayudhe and Karthik had in Mouna Raagam.
Aditi Rao Hydari as Leela is dreamy eyed throughout the movie, and even her Bharatnatyam skills haven’t helped her deliver a powerful performance. It is almost nauseating to see a self-righteous woman head over heels in love with a man who verbally and physically abuses her. Her reactions in many scenes come across as misplaced and strange. At several instances in the film, one could not help but wonder whether she herself has understood the character she is playing.
If you are searching for a Shalini from Alaipaayudhe or a Revathi from Mouna Raagam, you will be left utterly disappointed; she is nowhere near their masterful performances.
Since Kaatru Veliyidai is entirely driven by its lead characters, the supporting characters have very little to do. With whatever limited scope they do have, Rukmani, Delhi Ganesh, RJ Balaji fail to make an impression. Their performances are weak and completely out of sync with the roles their characters are expected to play.
The only saving grace of the film is its cinematography and A.R Rahman’s music. Cinematographer Ravi Varman’s visual storytelling takes you through beautiful landscapes and an all-consuming array of colors. Every frame is a painting, and every subject resembles a magnificent poem.
Needless to say, A.R Rahman’s music in Kaatru Veliyidai is truly breathtaking. The placement of the songs could’ve been better, but they leave a lasting mark in your mind and almost put you in a trance. One couldn’t help but fall in love with the unfathomable lyrics and memorable tunes.
However, the poor production design of the film fails Ravi Varman’s visuals and A.R Rahman’s music. V.C, a war pilot, is not shown maneuvering an aircraft on screen even once. There is a jailbreak scene that comes across as some sort of parody. The only excuse for such a badly executed scene is Mani Ratnam’s desire to give his audience comic relief from his movie.
Things are made more unconvincing by the fact that everyone is shown speaking Tamil. While watching the film, one tends to think that the scenes are taking place in Ooty rather than Kashmir.
As you step out of the cinema at the end of the film, the atmosphere feels eerie. Nobody is seen conversing happily to their partners and friends. Their first priority seems to be to get out of the parking lot. It is disheartening that Mani Ratnam has dished tout something of this quality to his die-hard hopeless romantic fans – those who are either in denial of how disappointing the movie was or those who are taken by the realization that cinema could really use some new blood.It is time for Mani Ratnam to pass the baton to younger directors and advice the new generation.