'Kaatru Veliyidai': Visual and emotional treat (Review By Subhash K. Jha ; Rating: ***1/2)
When it's Mani Ratnam, our expectations are sky high. "Kaatru Veliyidai" doesn't disappoint, probably because the sky is where the film's unpredictable protagonist Varun heads. Karthi, Tamil-Telugu cinema's new hope, plays a fighter pilot captured by the enemy country during the Kargil war. In elegantly played-out flashbacks, we are made privy to Varun's rippling romance, intense passion, irreconcilable acrimony and seeming doom, as the rising smoke of war time despair envelopes the lovers' tumultuous togetherness.
To say that Mani portrays the lovers' intense passion with a painter's bold and indelible strokes would be no exaggeration. Every frame of "Kaatru Veliyidai" is shot with the exquisite enraptured ebullience of a cloudburst in paradise.
Cinematographer Ravi Varman captures the lead pair in the snow-swept landscape of Kashmir as though they were part of the environment from long before the camera was set up. There are passages of looming lyricism shot in the deepest crevices of the valley which linger in the lenses of our minds long after the film is over.
And Aditi Rao Hydari. My God... Is she for real? The actress who has so far been underutilised in Hindi cinema finally blossoms into a bewildering bundle of beauteous visions. She is at once an imp and a diva, an open book and a mystery, an enigma and a revealation. Since Karthi's character is volatile, mercurial, insecure, over-possessive and obsessive, Aditi has to play the persecuted partner in the love relationship without playing the victim card.
Whenever Karthi snaps at her, takes swipes at her self-esteem, Aditi is that shrinking violet which regains its blossom in no time at all. And the songs... A.R. Rahman pulls out a melodic jukebox of lilting tunes that go a long way in making Aditi look like a vision in flight. Watch her mudras and mood changes in the song 'Vaan'. It will make Sanjay Leela Bhansali wonder why he didn't get Aditi to play the title role in "Padmavati".
Karthi, on the other hand, has a tough role to play. He plays a man who is frightened of his own unpredictable moods and whims. The character's whiplash temperament doesn't always work in the film. We don't only have a problem comprehending Varun's mood swings, we are also unable to root for him when at the end, he makes that long run to retrieve love. Who knows how he will behave with Aditi's character once the film ends???
Also, the film's entire focus in on the lead pair. There is not one single other memorable character. In Mani's last film "Ok Kadhal Kanmani", besides the lead, there was Prakash Raj and Leela Samson who left a solid impact. I came away from "Kaatru Veliyidai" with no lasting impression of any other character except Aditi's Leela and Karthi's Varun.
Some of the aerial shots are done with a flair for visual expansiveness. Seasoned editor Sreekar Prasad is fully aware where to cut to the quick. Even the songs are tailored to ensure there is not a moment when the viewer can step out of the theatre. You will find yourself waiting for Varun and Leela to be reunited, though you will wonder what lies in store in their future.
'Kaatru Veliyidai': Beautiful, but messy love saga (Review By Haricharan Pudipeddi ; Rating: **)
Every frame in Mani Ratnam's "Kaatru Veliyidai", his latest outing starring Karthi and Aditi Rao Hydari, is like a beautiful painting, dipped in colours that are irresistibly attractive and uplifting. Unlike most filmmakers, Ratnam uses these picturesque locations to explore the complexity of the relationship between his lead pair. But sadly, in the most uninteresting and disengaging way.
While there are flashes of brilliance in this intense, long drawn-out romantic drama, there isn't enough soul to make us root for him.
Popular for exploring human relationships with sincerity and realism, Ratnam doesn't let us delve deep into the core of his lead characters. Quite early on, we understand Karthi plays a sexist jerk, and he likes to keep women under control. When we meet him for the first time, he is driving a jeep really fast and seated next to him is his girlfriend Girija Kapoor, played by Shraddha. Girija asks if he wants to marry her. He replies in the affirmative, but wants to have a child first.
Much later when a similar situation arises, this time between Karthi and Aditi, he is afraid to father her child. He chickens out, and it affects their relationship.
As much as you're intrigued to know why Karthi is such a sexist man, there's isn't enough to back up his attitude and actions. He loses his cool at the drop of a hat, and we are made to believe it could be due to his dysfunctional family. There is a silly scene involving his family and it hardly proves why he is being a jerk.
Karthi plays an Air Force pilot, and the entire story unfolds against the backdrop of 1999 Kargil war, so we wonder if the anger within due to the ongoing war shaped his personality. Ratnam just expects us to accept that his leading man is misogynist, spineless and selfish.
Aditi Rao Hydari, who is terrific even in an underwritten role, plays a doctor and she falls for Karthi. She gets treated miserably but we still can't empathize with her because one wonders why she even lets herself be treated that way. Throughout the film, as a dialogue goes, she is either loved crazily or treated without respect. Nevertheless, Ratnam wants us to root for this pair, because theirs is destructive kind of love.
There are also flashes of Ratnam's earlier films in "Kaatru Veliyidai", and most evident is "Roja". Karthi narrates his love saga while being held captive in Pakistan's prison. As the story goes back and forth, he plans to break out of the prison and the way they escape is outright ridiculous. The whole prison break scene is so flat sans any thrills, you wonder if this was the work of a filmmaker with barely any experience.
A.R. Rahman's music is addictive and all the more so when coupled with Ravi Varman's cinematography that captures Kashmir like it hasn't been showcased before. There's so much of effort that has gone into making the film look beautiful, nothing short of magical, but wish equal effort had gone into the writing, because by Mani Ratnam's standard it fell flat like a house of cards.