There’s no obvious misogyny in Kaatru Veliyidai. Nothing that isn’t camouflaged underneath lovely locales, beautiful clothes, and all the Amrapali jewellery, anyway. Or those random bursts of poetry. When Karthi as VC the fighter-pilot – with aviators and without moustache – shoves Leela about in a gathering, there’s an expectant hush. The wait is interminable: for the break-up that never comes. Instead, Leela picks herself up, in a rustle of skirts – and a beautiful stole – and stalks away. Not cool, VC, his mates say – but VC, if anything, is even more disgruntled. He follows her home, serenades her, tells her he cannot live without her, apologises a thousand times. And, Leela relents. That’s the vicious cycle Kaatru Veliyidai finds itself in. An unforgivable act, repentance, and romance – when there isn’t place for any. And this, especially, is disturbing – the blatant romanticization of violence and abuse.
I’d envisioned Kaatru Veliyidai to be something of the taming of Karthi. Not very unlike Simbu’s makeover in Vinnaithaandi…surely, all that sophistication must work in his favour? Ratnam, though, hadn’t fancied a change. Karthi is just what he’d intended for his script. Brash, full of that misplaced conceit; also, a well-wrought character that makes you want to throw something at him. In that, the director succeeds quite well. For an hour into the movie, you begin to wonder – in earnest – what Leela sees in VC. He’s arrogant, abusive, overbearing, an unapologetic chauvinist – almost all adjectives that you wouldn’t want to describe a 2017 hero with. He’s not the shrew that gets tamed, either.
RJ Balaji, though, is the chosen one this time. His jokes, if any, are subdued – and his Gandhian glasses only serve to make him look more mournful.
Early in Kaatru Veliyidai, VC guns a jeep down steep, picturesque roads, a woman by his side. The woman is in love, VC isn’t. When are we getting married, she asks. After a child, he says. This, perhaps, is the sole seemingly -progressive thought that the director harnesses all through the movie. It’s everywhere. A pregnant bride in the cursory wedding-song-that-just-has-to-be-there, then, a pregnant Leela… these are not matter-of-fact occurrences, though – there’s always a ‘joke’ to cushion possible backlashes.
There are sheer drapes in the hospital where Leela works.
Silk? Whatever the fabric, they billow out about the beds; one on which VC is almost comatose. It’s a pretty ward, tinted in sepia. Leela tends to him. She’s a doctor. In the passing.
The moments in which she’s actually at work are fleeting. In one instance, VC calls her at the hospital, for a joy-ride in the airplane. I can’t, she says. VC shows up at the hospital, anyway. Soon enough, they are in the air. “The cardiac, and acute appendicitis cases” all but forgotten. In another instance, VC and Leela – in a postcard location – outrage over nothing; let’s leave he says, there’s a snowstorm coming. She vows to brave the storm, and what-do-you-know, it’s soon upon them. Only when they cozy up inside the car amid howling winds, the snow falling prettily on Ravi Varman’s camera – the modern visual metaphor for sex – is the intent made known.
Kaatru Veliyidai could have been awesomely psychotic the way it is – if Leela had fought. She cries, though. Begs, pleads, forgives, but just doesn’t walk away. If she had though, the credits would have rolled in 30 minutes. Sometimes, there are just too many expectations from …massy cinema.
The Kaatru Veliyidai review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.