Kaatru Veliyidai – To Like or Not to Like

What is the film? Is it the breeze you want to embrace? Or the dusty storm you want to run from? Whichever side you snuggle to, there is no denying Kaatru Veliyidai‘s lead character VC is perhaps the most complex role ever written in Kollywood.

VC, for Varun Chakrapani, is played by Karthi, an Indian fighter pilot made and kept charming throughout the film. And one layer beneath that charm resides everything we don’t want to see in a hero. Self-obsession, aggressive confidence, a pound of ego and chunk of misplaced romanticism.  It is all these that conduct half the dynamics of this relationship story.

The other half is Leela Abraham, a doctor girl who keeps going back to VC all through the film regardless of how carelessly he treats her: he shouts at her; twists her hand; pulls her to his lap, only to stress the fact that she’s a girl and can’t afford to be anything but beautiful. In her own words, he sees her like a pet dog and not as an equivalent with self-esteem. And briefly in a scene, we see his father is very similar: dominating, and if disrespected in the least, a violent man.

There are two beautiful, subtle-as-snowflake scenes that unravel for us these two characters. One shows us the romantic Leela is. She’s been hearing of VC since her twelfth grade through her brother’s letters (he’s VC’s colleague). She has not seen him at all, but has been hearing of him for years. Imagine what years of highly opinioned letters from a close brother could do to a mellow girl. It is this combination of mystery, age and credibility that makes her accept VC’s date invite. Once here, he only had to smile his charming smile and show-off some heroics to make her realise she has fallen for him years, years ago. And this is precisely why she doesn’t leave him at all.

The second luminance is about VC. He has taken Leela to a snowy peak, but in a minute senses a snow storm approaching them. He tries to take her away for her safety, but forcefully, and when she resolutely expresses her wish to stay longer, he warns he may slap her. She asks him what the storm could do and he replies it could swallow them entirely. ‘Couldn’t you have said this earlier? Instead, why treat harshly?’ she asks. That is VC. He cares, he loves, but all in his own self-centered, gene-inherited way. Even when we see him woo her with a song and much love, it is only, we realise later, to boast to his friends he can get his girl back.

So the internal conflict is himself. He loves her, quotes Bharathi, and calls her ‘Azhagu Rani’, but he can’t let her have her own way and can’t even marry her because he fears he wouldn’t make a good father, a good husband. The external conflict is Kargil, which captures and locks him in Rawalpindi prison. Left alone, he thinks of his mistakes, how much cruelty he must have dumped on the woman who had given him her everything. Fragments of memories and a rudimentary love now assuming shape in the absence of the woman it stands for keeps him sane and helps him escape prison, and Pakistan.

That most of us have in some point in our lives thought and acted like him connects us to the film, but to feel this, the audience I watched the film with wanted something stronger than snowflakes. Missiles of messagey writing would have maybe given them reason to connect.

While coming to like the film or simply dismissing it is a personal issue, missing the subtleties that underscore the story and stroke every character’s image is as grave as the sin VC self-confesses near climax. For the film is a visual thesis on character study. It plucks an exemplary one of us to show us what we basically are and how mad we can get, in and out of love.

Some of Ratnamisms are retained in this film. The most important being the hero’s romance built on an equal proportion of love and lust, if not more of lust. It is evidenced throughout the film and in the songs Saaratu Vandila and Azhagiye. But in my opinion, nothing can match this outright lyric from Aayutha Ezhuthu: Kadhal konjam kammi, kaamam konjam thookal. 

Of Filth and Wealth

I am going to need a handful of Oregano to digest the unexpected developments of last week. The young, carefree minds that work in the fields of my mother’s native saying they don’t know who Trump is would register as uncommonness. While the same minds travelling to the nearest town to exchange their invalid notes of ₹500 and ₹1000, the possession of the latter being extremely rare, is the most common sight today.

Billionaire Trump rising to the top of the most powerful country took many by surprise, and Mr Modi’s announcement of demonetization hours before a midnight recorded a tremor of 7.3 on the Richter scale in the Indian subcontinent. While the poor who live in houses not more than one-storey tall escaped the quake, the rich who touch clouds if bored fell down spectacularly, although a bit tragically in their own eyes.

There are many Indians – notable economists and some others who don’t drink their morning coffee without The Hindu – who welcome the PM’s move with predictions of long-term benefits for the nation. And then there are others – Trumpish minds – who remain silly and naïve and ignorant and characteristic of all such synonyms that Oxford could give you, and painfully talk of long queues outside ATMs and create memes to ridicule this move.

And about this Trump, what he could do, no one can say, because, well, he himself doesn’t know. But there is some vague, indecipherable sense of satisfaction smiling deep within me at the thought of this win. A fleeting feeling of schadenfreude. All those relatives who have a natural awe for even the American illiterates and soggy minds would pause a minute to reconsider their admiration. Wouldn’t that be awesome, to see a false sense of respect become nothing in so little a time?

Now then, if you still have not exchanged your notes, join me tomorrow outside ICICI, Adyar at 9 sharp. Let us joke over America’s decision while progressing in the queue.

A Costly Mistake

Flash Fiction #08:

Sher Khan was a successful robber. How much wealth he and his 99 apprentices had amassed over the years is upto the imagination of greedy minds.

One night, while robbing the house of the Inspector General’s secret mistress, a serendipitous mistake committed landed him in prison.

But his pride and feeling of importance were unsurpassed by even plump tomatoes. While in prison, he made a call – not to a lawyer, though he could have hired the most expensive of black gowns.

Following this call, the Inspector General was handed divorce papers and dragged to court for a lofty alimony.