If you didn’t like the film and don’t like reading good things about it, I would suggest to stop here and head back. I loved it and I understand if you have a hard time agreeing to that. Not many films make us discuss about it the whole night after watching it. The emotions that Mani Ratnam makes us go through and the way he intrigues us to appreciate the intricacies in various aspects is phenomenal. And to top it off we even get ARR, Sreekar Prasad, Ravi Varman and some exceptional performances by Karthi(more on this later) and Aditi.
Pulling off a story about an emotionally abusive relationship with an audience like we have is not an easy task. Being a self-centered misogynistic sociopath, Karthi has taken up the task of portraying one of the most difficult characters written for screen and he has done a brilliant job with it. His borderline mental instability delivered in the form of romance comes out in a couple of scenes that could make people cringe but I found it reasonable for his character. And how good does this Aditi compliment him! With the perfect amount of cuteness and mani ratnam-isms, Aditi immediately took one of the top spots in my favourite heroines list.
It is high time someone made a film about relationships like this. And more importantly showing the female perspective in it as well. The arc that both the characters go through and the prison escape sequence balancing out the reverse character arc with a non-linear screenplay is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Just by having the main characters prefer pre-marital sex and another one marrying his wife after becoming pregnant, Mani Ratnam has already lost a lot of audiences. I’m not trying to be an elitist here but Kaatru Veliyidai is not for everyone. And liking or disliking it does not make anyone better than everyone else.
But you have to appreciate Mani for his love for symmetry. Even if you disliked the film, the aesthetically pleasing shots will mesmerize everyone. Some shots are so good that we even distract from the emotional involvement we have with the characters. Though both VC and Leela are confused about themselves for most of the film, we could feel the confusion along with them. We see that what VC does is not right but we also understand why Leela keeps going back to him. VTV tried to portray this confusion before and somewhat succeeded but this film did a fabulous job in it. It is refreshing to see relationships where everything is not perfect, though this being a Mani Ratnam film, who usually is the reason for defining relationships for many people.
Let’s nitpick for some time, shall we? When VC takes Leela on his flight for the first time, Leela asks VC if she can scream. After his approval, she, in a mani ratnam exclusive way, looks at his face again if he is being genuine before she starts. In the same scene VC asks her to smile and she adorably shies away. When VC isn’t able to understand that this is not working out, we can perfectly see how much of a difficult position she is in and the stress she is going through to make him understand. When she hears an airplane sound, she longingly runs out to see it but doesn’t guess what flight it is based on its sound. Step aside people, we have a new super talented actress in house!
Leela’s friend Nidhi, who happens to be the most hilarious 3rd wheel in one particular scene, has her own story going with her crushes and jealousy. Illyaas, difficultly but subtly played by RJ Balaji, being the audience surrogate when needed. Delhi Ganesh being Delhi Ganesh. They way Mani sprinkles his characters with his own non-boring cliches is something that other directors should try doing.
The one thing I love about his films is the way he uses his lyrics to perfectly balance some scenes, something that should have been the norm but has changed course over the years. The Juguni portions were a little off initially but when Vaan and Nallai Allai took over, ARR stood his ground. In particular, I loved the single violin melancholy giving more meaning to Leela’s sadness and the guitar riffs giving the adrenaline rush during the prison escape.
I would have preferred if the movie had a tragic ending. The cliched climax (almost evano oruvan-esque) didn’t really tie the whole movie together. But in the end, are they in love with each other? Did he really change? Are we supposed to like the movie? Has mani lost his touch? All these are for each of us to decide. But even if we all disagree on many things, the way his movies brings people together with the excitement he creates is something I’ll always look forward to.