Kaatru Veliyidai Tamil Movie
"Does good filmmaking guarantee a good film?" - this was one of the many questions that plagued me while watching Mani Ratnam's latest, 'Kaatru Veliyidai'. Of course, an auteur like Maniratnam is expected to deliver top-notch quality in terms of filmmaking, which is a given; in other words, that's how our psyche has been tuned over the years, especially for a 'Mani Ratnam film'. But a 'Mani Ratnam film' isn't only about cutting edge filmmaking gimmicks, it ought to be more than that.
KV is an intense and complicated romance between Varun (Karthik), a fighter pilot with the IAF and Leela (Aditi Rao Hydari), a doctor. The narration happens as a flashback when Varun gets trapped in a Pakistani prison as a prisoner of war. His escape from the prison and reunion with Leela forms the rest of the movie.
The story is set almost 2 decades back at the time of Kargil war. Love and war always make for a great romantic plot and that too, one being a warrior who celebrates death and the other a doctor who celebrates life is another polarity that could be explored unendingly.
As for the milieu, it is Mani Ratnam's favourite snow-clad landscapes of Himachal - more specifically the border region where our armed forces are stationed. Unfortunately, that is also the serene region that is engulfed in an undercurrent of tension and terrorism. That, in my opinion also serves as the motif for this love story where the serenely beautiful Aditi is engulfed in an ocean of love with Karthi whose life seems to be torn from the pages of an all-out action script.
The characterizations are deep-rooted. All the characters except Aditi had various shades. Karthi's character seems to be difficult to grasp at first, but once we are out of the theatre, we develop a sort of pity for him.
He plays a fighter pilot who has to take life as it is. So his emotions are naturally pragmatic. For a person whom death keeps brushing shoulders every now and then, romance would be another window to objectify a gender. That was also brought out through his chauvinistic father promptly passing his genes to his son.
Aditi's character was straight off the bat - a woman who walks with her head tall and confident and has no qualms falling in love with a man who has fallen in love with other women in his past. She likes him and so she chooses him. She asks him whether he would like her to keep their child in her womb or should she 'take care of things'. She is that sort of a fiercely independent tough nut folded into a coy skin. That was also evident in the climax.
RJ Balaji was given a surprising undertone. Not sure whether this role would take him places, but definitely we've seen a matured performance from someone whom we have seen as a clown in the past. Again, the hand of an auteur is at play.
AR Rahman has delivered yet another masterpiece for his mentor. The music when blended with extraordinary sound design along with some surreal visuals from cinematographer Ravi Varman's lens, we end up getting translocated near those ice-clad peaks and snow covered conifers.
As with so many Mani Ratnam movies, there were a few extraordinary visual narratives in place. Sample the scene where Leela is pouring a drink for her grandfather (Delhi Ganesh). As she hears the fighter jets piercing the air at a distance, the camera follows her from inside the house to the outside and into a glass dining hall, through its ceiling we see a couple of jets flying over their house, and then she coyly continues singing and enters her house, as her grandfather stands helpless and ranting at her granddaughter's plight. The whole thing was a single shot! Hats off to the art director for the mise en scene.
So till now, I have been mentioning about the filmmaking prowess of a genius filmmaker. Yes, he still has it in him to narrate stories visually. But it all boils down to what's being narrated. The content and its relevance. That is where the movie largely falters. Especially the latter half just wavered without any aim. The intense romantic portions between Karthi and Aditi became a rhetoric and after a certain point, we begin to lose interest in them and start questioning Aditi's sensibility.
The dialogues were also a hit and a miss - the one I loved was Karthi introducing his mother to Aditi - "Ennoda Amma. Bharathiarayum meen kulambayum ooti valarthaanga" (My mum. She fed me with Bharathiar and fish curry when I was a kid). Also those naughty ones like "Eppo kalyanam pannikalam. Mudhal pulla porantha appuram" (When can we marry? After our first child). These lines added the necessary tones for the characters - both for the subject and object. But there were other run-of-the-mill "I love you" sort of lines which could have been much more interesting.
Karthi's character being made to fight with his inner demons, his self-centric obsession, was emphasised every now and then and that contributed to scenes getting repetitive and eventually redundant. Now I realise why Mani Ratnam in one of his interviews mentioned that till this day he feels jittery while staging scenes. Certainly, he should have spent much more time with Sreekar Prasad on the editing table.
The movie is certainly not a disaster, but for the mainstream audience who have been treated with rapid screenplays and instant gratification, Mani Ratnam's screenplay would push them into the generation gap and make the movie appear like a drag. Had the content carried much more drama with some more pace, this would have worked. As of now, KV is a brilliant visual treat with some dried out romance.