A Maniratnam movie. A familiar journey that brings joy yet due to his recent inconsistency, an unpredictable one. The benchmark is so high that anything short of exhilarating, full-on cinematic orgasm, it's a failure. We go to movies to judge. We judge them the moment the final credits roll as we make sense of what we feel. With "Kaatru Veliyidai" (Breezy Expanse), you aren't happy when you come out of the theater. It still feels unfinished. Something left over. The journey is complete for the protagonist but as a viewer, you're still perplexed. That's when it hits you. You don't like the protagonist. You don't like his flaws, his demeanor, his behavior nor his antics. Mani's hero's have a higher benchmark. Mani's heroine's, stand on an even taller pedestal. So, while as a film maker, you appreciate his latest character study, it fails to bring any kind of sympathy towards the protagonist. Even when he is a war hero, fighter pilot and becomes a prisoner of war. That's a big bummer as a viewer. The female protagonist on the other side is flawless, evocative and shimmers in the snow. She is like a snowflake, sensitive, quiet but strong. Her only sin is falling for the bad boy. Karthik has the tougher role among the two and he almost succeeds but like Olympics, it's not good. Not even silver. Bronze, maybe. While he emotes the angry young man with ease, he loses completely when he needs to be vulnerable. Perhaps the biggest flaw is when he convinces his lady love on screen to forgive him but he doesn't even scratch the surface with the audience of his innocence or vulnerability. And that's like missing the penalty kick. Nothing else really matters. Mani has broken new ground by focusing on just two characters for the entire movie. It's an engrossing ride until interval and a slow, drag in the second half. Ravi Varman, as promised, paints a wonderful background to these two characters in white snow and brown desert. Mani's flawed depiction of Raavan comes to haunt his Officer VC. There is no redemptive sparks in him when he acts immature and being a jerk. Aditi Rao Hydari has arrived. She is spectacular in every shot and her range of emotions and acting craft is a treat. I had to remind myself that she is not Shobana from Dalapathi. "Kaatru Veliyidai" is a wonderful character study. It just feels like a television drama in the second half ending in a whimper than thunderous applause. It misses the goal post and loses but the journey is still interesting in parts.
Set during the Kargil War, fighter pilot Varun recalls his romance with Leela while being held prisoner in Pakistan.
October 27, 2020