Kaatru Veliyidai Revisited

I just couldn’t get myself to watch Kaatru Veliyidai again, because the very thought of watching the abusive nature of Varun (VC) was making me feel really irritated! What madness is it that makes the human mind hold on to someone despite all the abusiveness!

I finally got myself to watch a few scenes some time last year and, before I knew it, I got hooked big time to the magic of ARR & Mani Ratnam. What music and what visuals!

It is one thing to portray the initial happy days of a simple relationship, like in Alaipayuthey and OK Kanmani, where the relationship itself is yet to really begin. But it is quite a task to portray a complex relationship like that of VC and Leela’s, which is synonymous with everything but happiness.

The different phases that a relationship goes through, the frustrations caused by love-hate-love alternations that a relationship goes through, the longing, the wistfulness, the solitary phase and, above all, the ever-lingering promise of change, for the better. – It is all this and more that keeps a relationship going, through all its ups and downs, and it is this, that has been portrayed, as poignantly, in Kaatru Veliyidai, as only Mani Ratnam can.

The more I watched, the more I got to know VC better – His reasons for refusing to commit to this relationship, his fear that he might take after his father, the effects on him from being prepared for an army war all the time, the survivor’s guilt and more.

Yet there is this carefree nature of VC which we see during conversations between Girija and Varun in the jeep and VC reciting Bharatiyar’s lines in the hospital, all shown in accompaniment to some peppy ARR’s background score.

Leela, the vulnerable yet strong doctor, who, going against her parents wishes and moving to Kashmir, sees her brother’s best friend by chance on the very first day of setting foot in the hospital. It’s another thing that even if she hadn’t met him on that day, she definitely would have hunted him down in the days to come.

A soft, lovely BGM accompanies all the hospital scenes when Leela treats Varun and meets her friend Nidhi for the first time.

Among their initial meetings, what starts off as just casual conversations for Varun, aren’t really casual for Leela as we get to know later.

All the initial scenes between VC and Leela feature Tango Kelayo as BGM bringing out the initial lighter moments of their relationships so aptly.

VC and Leela, both sharing their past with the same person who was close to both of them. VC who doesn’t know anything about Leela. Leela, who knows a lot about VC from all the letters from her brother, Ravi, over the years.

As Leela slowly reveals to Varun that she is Ravi’s sister, we see the look of recognition, realization and reminiscence on VC’s face when he tells Leela that her smile resembles her brother’s. We see VC revealing his survivor guilt at letting Ravi go on that plane instead of him and both VC & Leela missing Ravi. Could there have been a better setting than a flight with just the two of them to have this heartfelt conversation as they soar through the sky trying to, as they both say, search for Ravi in the sky?

Jugni starts when they get to know each other from the moment Leela sees Varun at the flying club on an evening. Then follows Jugni the BGM, Jugni the song and again as BGM till that evening ends. What a beautiful song that is, alternating between soft, scintillating music and peppy words.

The quest for Ravi continues with Leela travelling to Leh to meet Varun despite his determined decision that they both should not meet each other again. Leela says she wants to see the place where her brother was in the end. Varun takes her to that very spot and, there, in the middle of the snow storm, Varun and Leela traverse to the next phase of their relationship. It is then that we first hear the soulful humming by A R Rahman in the background. The music and humming conveys the fact that there is going to be no playful aspect in this relationship. It beautifully brings out all the craving for togetherness along with the underlying melancholy.

Then starts the roller coaster ride of their relationship, with VC constantly transforming from the nice guy to the insensitive one within an instant every time. Be it in playful Azhagiye mode or the emotional Nallai Allai mode or hurtful words in front of friends or family, Leela hangs on to him, constantly questioning his behaviour and attitude towards her.

When it all finally gets to Leela, she leaves him for good. Despite knowing all that VC is going through, she continues to be under hibernation, away from him, despite following every news about him.

Then comes a climax in which words, expressions and music compete with each other to convey all the bundled up underlying emotions. The same soulful humming of A.R.Rahman sets off an apt background for this. We see VC’s denial on his face when Leela asks him if this meeting is a coincidence (Varun, idhu tharcheyalaa?).

Then, when he starts off about why he has come here to not disturb her, but to apologize, we hear the tune of Nallai Allai song in the background. It makes one wonder if these words by Varun are also as fake as that Nallai Allai poetry which he sang to her. Though we earlier did hear Varun questioning himself about whether Leela will believe him when he tells her he has changed, this BGM does have us asking ourselves the same question.

Before we know whether Varun would have bid adieu to Leela after all the apologies and left, we have Leela’s daughter calling out to her. We see the initial dismay on Varun’s face on hearing the name Rohini, the name he wanted to give his daughter, and then real shock when Leela asks him if Rohini resembles him or her. It is then that ARR’s humming starts again! What soul-stirring music for an emotional scene like this! Doesn’t that music so beautifully blend with the lovely barren scenery this scene is set in?

With a beautiful transition to the music of Vaan Varuvaan playing in the background, we see Varun, Leela and Rohini unite!

Music apart, being ever the Alaipayuthey fan, VC calling Leela at the hospital, the telephone receiver, naan duty la irukken, it all reminds us of the scene in Alaipayuthey featuring a similar telephone with the doctor saying, ‘naan duty la irukken’ 🙂

Varun too reunites with his love at a medical camp just like Karthik and Shakti of Alaipayuthey. But, Kaatru Veliyidai is no Alaipayuthey, but is a constant oscillation between serious-abusive-and-annoying-at-times and calm-and-emotional-at-times relationship.

P.S.: I have always found the haunting, soulful ARR’s humming BGM reminiscent of ARR’s Banyan Theme.

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