Movie Review: Kaatru Veliyidai Is Everything That Baahubali Is Not

Kaatru Veliyidai is as much AR Rahman’s as it is Mani Ratnam’s.  There are two things that are breath-taking from the very first shot of a Mani Ratnam movie: The way it looks and the way it sounds.

When Aditi Rao Hydari sings and dances to Varuvaan (he will come), you won’t know where the music ends and where the visuals begin.  There is no line that separates the two. It is visually so breathtaking, that it’s impossible to compose a review as you watch the film. Believe me, I tried.

The aerial footage shown in the trailer is hardly the best of the lot. Except for a couple of tacky graphics (the biplane in the clouds), there isn’t a single odd note, right up to the last frame, where the two who are now three, are flanked by the far blue mountains and the setting sun.
There’s nothing you haven’t already seen in Kaatru Veliyidai, and yet it’s refreshingly new, just like love. Which brings me to Karthi and Aditi Rao Hydari. Through them, Mani Ratnam had done something he hasn’t done thus far.

Karthi plays an air force pilot, prone to impulse and bursts of anger bordering on physical abuse. He wears the scars of a dysfunctional family on his sleeve. He is aware of his nature and his powerlessness against it. This is beautifully refreshing. It also translates to extremely taut emotional scenes between him and Aditi, which are nerve rackingly familiar to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship. Karthi in a sense has channeled the Partheban style of acting (definitely subconsciously), where he isn’t bothered about how he ‘looks’ when he emotes.

Some of the scenes shot in extreme close up are a little too intrusive. The audience laughs unintentionally, but eventually they get with it. In numerous interviews, Aditi Rao Hydari has gushed about Mani Ratnam’s ability to write women beautifully. I totally believe her and will take her word for it.

Aditi Rao Hydari and Karthi in a scene from Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai.
Aditi Rao Hydari and Karthi in a scene from Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai.

Aditi is more flesh and blood than any other female character Mani Ratnam has written so far; powerful, delicate, adamant, fluid, confused and everything else in between. She is what every woman is; different things at different times.

Rukmini Vijaykumar and RJ Balaji are the sour notes in the film for no fault of theirs. Balaji doesn’t look or talk like a soldier and Rukmini is a doctor only in name, not even in uniform. For someone who grew famous thanks to his comic timing, Balaji hardly has a few lines of unfunny dialogue.

And yet, my faith in Mani Ratnam has been restored, thanks to Kaatru Veliyidai‘s ability to move sylphlike between sweeping vistas and an extremely personal tale of love.

Kaatru Veliyidai is the antithesis of Baahubali. For all of the reasons that Baahubali works, Kaatru Veliyidai will pull you in for exactly the opposite reasons.

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