Kaatru Veliyidai movie review: Karthi gives career best act in Mani Ratnam's intense romance
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.
Kaatru Veliyidai boasts of an intensity in romance that Mani Ratnam is known for. But in this Karthi and Aditi Rao Hydari starrer, the romance is peppered with shades of grey.
Don't get me wrong: the grey lies in the gleaming eyes of Officer VC played by Karthi, in what can be described as his career best performance since Paruthiveeran. When VC looks intently at Leela (a dainty and beautifully photographed Aditi) stating their chemistry is getting all too dangerous, the glint in his eye almost elicited a couple of chuckles from the row behind mine.
But the chuckle gave way to serious character shade in VC, who is prone to quick bouts of anger and verbal abuse and if it comes to it, physical even.
Rahman's background score combines grandeur with a haunting lilt which juxtaposes beauty with lurking danger.
That Leela and VC are headstrong, that the film traverses time and geographies is wonderfully captured in terrains and in their characters. Ravi Verman is possibly the best cinematographer for Mani Ratnam... yet.
The dialogues are crisp, conveying each person's ideologies and traits — the somber mood is set against colourful frames and the vast snow - which forms a symbol of cool climes yet a spine chilling volatile relationship which stems from VC's family tree. The interval block moves back from micro to macro and the background music announces VC's freedom from enemy line.
When one is used to scenes unfolding like staged setups Mani Ratnam introduces a pace which is languid yet arresting.
The film, however, is as difficult to like as its leading man, given his serious anger management issues. The love story spans a personal tryst for VC who literally climbs hills, dales and war ridden mountains to reunite with the love of his life.
How easy is it to write a role that is so off-beat and so not likeable from the inside, but oh so handsome when you look at him?
Karthi's VC is smart, savvy and appears sensible until his dictat is ruffled. Aditi's Leela is emotional, vulnerable and a woman who is willing to cross the knot of matrimony and does precisely what she wants. These two not very regular characters are set against the Kargil war and the escape chase sequence is a difficult terrain to cross, (special mention: Action Director Shyam Kaushal)
Within this alien milieu comes a daring take on imperfect people who swear by undying love.
Mani Ratnam eschews a regular screenplay format of crescendo climax and keeps the adrenaline for the moments which lead to it instead. Because the leading man's character is not instantly identifiable (even though it's something one hears of from life stories of friends and family) — here's a Facebook status way of describing Kaatru Veliyidai - it's complicated.
Watch the trailer for Kaatru Veliyidai here: