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CAST: Karthi, Aditi Rao Hydari, RJ Balaji, Rukmini Vijayakumar, Delhi Ganesh
DIRECTION: Mani Ratnam
DURATION: 2 hours 27 minutes
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KAATRU VELIYIDAI SYNOPSIS: An air force pilot and a doctor fall in love, but their contrasting personalities, especially his self-centredness, keep their relationship tense.
KAATRU VELIYIDAI REVIEW: Kaatru Veliyidai opens with scenes of fighting between the Indian and Pakistani army. We see a pilot, Varun aka VC (Karthi), being captured by the Pakistani army. But very soon, we realise that this is a film about the battle between two hearts — in other words, not Roja!
We are introduced to Leela (Aditi Rao Hydari), a doctor. Their very first meeting involves her treating him after he is seriously injured in an accident. Upon recovery, VC asks Leela out and it is during their date above the clouds that he realises that it isn’t really chance that has brought them together. And even though the two are truly and madly in love with each other, they realise that their relationship might not work because they are polar opposites.
Like his father, he is dominating and self-centred (more than one character remarks how VC is in love with himself); she is sweet-natured and with a modicum of self-respect. “Rani madhiri nadathura illa keela pottu midhikka,” she complains to him in one scene, making it clear that she expects “equal relationship”. Even their professions are at odds — he has to kill in the name of duty, hers involve saving lives (“Irulum oliyum”, as VC puts it). In such a scenario, does this relationship have a future?
What lets down Kaatru Veliyidai and stops it from being the film it wants to be is the narrative device that Mani Ratnam employs to tell his story — intercutting a romance with a sub-plot about the protagonist, who has become a prisoner of war in the present, trying to stage a prison break and get back to his lady love. It not only feels clichéd, but there is hardly any suspense in these portions; worse, they are preposterous and laughable, almost comparable with what we got in Wagah last year.
The romantic track plays out more on the lines of what we saw in Neethaane En Ponvasantham (even that film’s protagonist was named Varun!), another film where the couples themselves were a threat to the romance. But here, this conflict isn’t forceful enough. The leads have charm, and try their best to make us care, but we are never as emotionally invested in the fate of VC and Leela as we should be.
However, the film is saved to an extent by the technical proficiency on display. Right from Ravi Varman’s lush visuals to Rahman’s peppy score and Sharmishta Roy’s realistic sets, the film is a treat technically. And Mani Ratnam, the director, can still make a scene feel lively and fresh with his staging. He gives us the quirks that we have come to expect in his films, like the episode involving VC’s family, where we instantly get the traits of his family members in swift strokes or the conversation between RJ Balaji (a military doctor) and Rukmini Vijayakumar (a civilian doctor, like Leela). It is really unfortunate that the rest of his writing here doesn’t inspire the same kind of awe.