Kaatru Veliyidai cast: Karthi, Aditi Rao Hydari, RJ Balaji, Rukmini Vijaykumar
Kaatru Veliyidai director : Mani Ratnam
Kaatru Veliyidai rating: 1.5
Mani Ratnam has been showing a distinct slide in his past few films, of the sort which forces us to acknowledge that he may have shot all his bullets, and has a near-empty barrel now, which he sandpapers over with gorgeous vistas (the cinematography is breath-taking), and marvelous songs and dances ( the choreography is terrific).
‘Kaatru Veliyidai’, which loosely translates as ‘breezy expanse’, checks all the Mani Ratnam boxes we’ve loved and obsessed over, over the years. Every frame is sheer poetry. His leading lady is the epitome of fragile beauty, with just the right degree of virginal smoulder, which kindles only for her lover. His leading man is flawed but knows that his ardour is enough to win his lady over.
Ratnam’s melding of politics and pleasure in his movies has always been a tricky balance, and in parts of his well-known trilogy—‘Roja-Bombay-Dil Se’—there have been a series of sweet spots when it comes together with a degree of flair and colourful conviction.
This goes missing in the director’s latest expedition, in which the plot is fully frothy and woolly-headed, bunging in the ‘realism’ of the Kargil war, the hero’s painful excursion into enemy territory, and a climax full of comic book escapades, into Ratnam’s too-familiar schtick—the full-on, full-blown romance which is meant to overcome all else.
Varun ( Karthi) plays a desi Top Gun fighter pilot, all cool shades and smirk. Leela ( Hydari) is a doctor, her skin is porcelain, and her eyes are wide. Their love affair had the potential to break-away from the standard ‘na-na-haan-haan’, but at no point do we fully understand why Leela is so head-over-heels with the self-absorbed jerk that Varun is : yes, we do get that some eminently sensible women will fall for jerks, and stick with them, but Karthi, all bulging eyes and bluster, never feels like such a magnet.
Hydari pleases the eye, and, given her head, acquits herself better here than she has in her previous outings, even if she has to do what heroines down the ages have been forced to – wear sheer drapes and shiver in the cold of Kashmir’s snow, while the hero is covered in leather. Two supporting roles are interesting, though: RJ Balaji and Vijaykumar, who glide in and out, have character. But ultimately, it all comes down to these questions: is it new, and does it work, even if it isn’t all novel. These are the things we demand, as we must, even of beloved auteurs, each of whose films is a much-anticipated event.
On both those counts, `Kaatru Veliyidai’ flunks the test. What we are left with is a few moments in which Hydari impresses, the spectacular scenery, shot by Ravi Varman, and a couple of rousing song-and-dance numbers, powered by A R Rahman’s score.
Everything else just blows in the wind.