Review Reviews

Kaatru Veliyidai: prisoners of love and war

It’s no coincidence that the first meeting between Squadron Leader VC (Karthi) and Dr. Leela Abraham (Aditi Rao Hydari) takes place in a hospital. VC has had an accident and Leela has just taken charge as the duty doctor. “His vitals haven’t stabilised,” she says, as she springs into action. There’s blood all over and an injury to his head. As she sits up all night, examining his progress, we’re told that she’s overtly concerned because he is her first-ever patient. As for VC, it is Leela’s angelic face that he first sees as he awakens. It forebodes the nature of the relationship we’re going to witness…VC is broken and Leela can’t help but fix him.

Much of Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai unravels in the form of memories. After being struck down by an enemy missile, VC is held captive in a Rawalpindi prison. All he has is his duty to the nation, hatred towards his enemies and undying love for Leela. Using her memories as his lifeblood, VC charts his course back home to his beloved.

But is he worth waiting for? That’s what makes Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai fascinating.

Aditi Rao Hydari and Karthi in a still from ‘Kaatru Veliyidai’, dubbed as ‘Cheliyaa’ in Telugu

Aditi Rao Hydari and Karthi in a still from ‘Kaatru Veliyidai’, dubbed as ‘Cheliyaa’ in Telugu   | Photo Credit: Special_Arrangement

VC’s own father describes him as a very selfish person. When Leela asks VC if he believes in destiny, VC says he only believes in ‘self’. As he sees it, even God is a fighter pilot. After all, if you’re used to looking at the world from the skies, chances are you believe you are God.

Kaatru Veliyidai
  • Genre: Romantic drama
  • Director: Mani Ratnam
  • Cast: Karthi, Aditi Rao Hydari, RJ Balaji
  • Storyline: A prisoner-of-war holds on to memories of his lover to help him make his way back home
  • Bottomline: A complex love story that works better in the head than in the heart
  • Runtime: 140 minutes

So, how is it like to be in love with someone like that? Ask Leela, the girl who’s had a thing for VC since school (she heard about the star pilot from her brother). We soon learn that it’s easier to fall in love with VC than to stay in love with him. Describing his mood swings she says, “Nee enna rani pola madhikire, illena kizha potta midhikire (either you hail me like a queen or trample all over me).

VC hails from a dysfunctional family and his abusive nature, we’re told, is something he’s inherited from his father. See how beautifully we’re shown how VC’s touch and embraces feel like it’s suffocating Leela. Ultimately, when he chooses to play God again it is because he fears he might become just like his father.

So when the missile strikes, it isn’t just his aircraft that’s grounded. It’s his ego too. As he makes his way back home, what we’re witnessing is his journey to selflessness.

When the writing is that good, one also wishes every scene had come together in the heart as well as it does in the head. There’s something about Karthi’s performance that just didn’t work — the way he rolls his eyes and the scene where he confronts her parents were especially jarring.

There are reasons why Kaatru Veliyidai is certainly no classic. But when you leave the theatre with a lump in your throat, you remember how your love for this director doesn’t arise merely because he makes you smile. He does so much more than that.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 12:44:02 PM |

Next Story