Kaatru Veliyidai (2017), a story of a Prisoner of War rescued by his love for a girl, was one of these very little movies I wanted to go and watch right after it was announced. Such was the power of the Mani Ratnam and A.R.Rahman combo, for the movie needed no marketing material apart from those names to persuade me to book the tickets at once. The songs were then released which captured all our hearts in an instance. As a friend of mine said, “ARR has reached a point where whatever he does turns into a masterpiece”. Higher and higher grew the expectations as closer and closer came the seventh of April. Sometimes in life, the thing you think you love the most will hurt you in ways you never can or will imagine. Kaatru Veliyidai experiences the same today.
The concept of Bharathi’s “Pudhumai Penn” has always been the point of discussion in all of Mani Ratnam’s movies and in Kaatru Veliyidai, it takes center stage. As Dr.Leela Abraham, Aditi Rao Hydari gave us a scintillating performance with her strong expressions and perfect lip-sync. She was what made the character unique and different from all the other women in Mani Ratnam’s movies. She puts up a tough fight to the predominant, stereotypical male mentality of VC, an IAF Fighter Pilot played reasonably well by Karthi Sivakumar. The conflicts between VC and Leela feel a bit forced at first and the audience want the on-screen couple to stop fighting, not because we connected with them, but we found the quarrels petty and awkward. They get better later on, but the damage had already been done. ‘RJ’ Balaji had the audience at splits with only one syllable and he has developed as an actor within the plot of the movie more than just a comedian to make the audience laugh.
Talking about the supporting cast, I wish to compare this movie with O Kadhal Kanmani, another one of Mani Ratnam’s best and my favorites. OK Kanmani had real, deep supporting characters that helped the plot move. Here, the characterizations are flimsy and superficial. We long for these characters to do something than just stand around and speak their limited dialogues and give necessary expressions. Karthi Sivakumar definitely is out of his comfort zone here and at first he looks a little off but the way he handles the emotional scenes in the second half is very much appreciable. There are certain scenes where his facial expression distracts us from the aesthetics of the frame but they can all be forgiven.
Coming to the plot, it is very simple with no complications. There is nothing new and it is just the same old quintessential love story with Mani Ratnam clichés gently sprinkled all over. The screenplay is non-linear with the film going back and forth between two timelines, the war timeline and the flashback. Though alternating between two different timelines, the plot is very easy to follow, thanks to the voice over at the transitions. Slow and draggy screenplay is one of the complaints
Editing the trailers must have been very difficult for Mr. Sreekar Prasad since every frame in the movie is aesthetically pleasing and none of them give away essential plot points for there are none that really matter. The lighting, composition and the over use of mirrors spell Mani Ratnam loud and clear. There are characters looking at mirrors or characters seen inside the frames of mirrors every five minutes or so. Sreekar Prasad has done a decent job editing the movie without doing any more damage than already done.
This movie would have very easily gone wrong and become completely unwatchable but just as VC’s love for Leela helps him rescue himself from the Pakistani prison, AR Rahman’s passionate background score, Ravi Varman’s enticing visual styling, the VFX department’s best efforts and the commendable Sound editing rescue this movie from the deep darkness of ruined films that could have had a future. AR Rahman gives you goosebumps with those energetic electric guitar riffs and emotional organ swells perfectly complemented the on-screen emotions and in some places went on to compensate for the missing emotions. The sound editing brings some much needed tension to the movie and Mani Ratnam goes on to use it along with Ravi Varman’s cinematography and some exquisite camera angles to a narrate a story on its own.
My Final Verdict: A romantic movie to be watched only for the technicalities and not for the basic plot.