Kaatru Veliyidai: What an anti climax – Visithra Manikam
I was excited that Maniratnam was back with a movie. The trailers showed that it was a love story. The songs didn’t make sense but I figured Mani would know where to insert them. Unless for Kadal, there has never been a movie I did not like (though I have yet to watch Ok Kanmani).
But towards the end there were reports that Karthi was playing the role of an abusive boyfriend. I was a bit hesitant of watching the movie simply because Mani loves a good love story and his lovers always reunited no matter if the ending was happy or not. There was also the fact that the plot was pretty obvious. Set during the kargil war, I was sure he would be captured by the enemy. I wanted to see whether he would make it back (though again Mani’s formula always reunites lovers).
And as expected the songs made sense, the movie, cinematography was brilliant. Kashmir is just so stunning in the lens of the camera. There were so many scenes that are still in my mind – right from how brilliantly they were framed even in an action moment to the vibrant colours. Both their actings and the very minor roles of the other actors were great as well. But I’m not here to talk about that but about the storyline itself.
And I was happy that she stood up for herself. Though refusing to leave as a snow storm was forming was pretty stupid. Common sense would have made anyone run for the lives so that scene made her an educated doctor look stupid. But then again common sense is not so common after all.
I love that she questions him on why her opinions didn’t matter – was it coz she was a woman or a civilian. Karti replied in the latter eventually – men are hunters, we are not same physically.
The argument (quiet in Mani’s style) ends with him pushing her and she walks away.
As with the characteristics of all abusive people (men or women) – sorry slips through his lips as easy as a and b and his apologies tend to come with elaborate romantic gestures. Phrases like “we are not equal, you are much superior than me” “I need you, I am nothing without you” – are spoken so easily and so emotionally manipulative. Karthi has done a brilliant job acting as the abusive boyfriend Varun @ VC with sparks of craziness often showing in stills, right from the start. The only problem with that is, mentally abusive (which is much worse than physically abusive people) people rarely show craziness to anyone around them. They most you would see a sparks of anger and instant seeking of forgiveness especially when it happens in a public setting.
Which is why victims tend to rarely actually leave. They are wrapped up in conflicting emotions of anger, guilt and love that they are sucked back in everytime. Yet deep down they know, the person hasn’t changed. That was brilliantly etched in Leela’s expression when she forgives him, thinking he truly means it when it was all a means to win a bet and save face with his mates – and he declares to them – MY WOMAN would listen to me, and you can all dream of getting a woman like this.
Interestingly Mani doesn’t show him hitting her – despite the threat and shove. What he did was show the kind of abusive people that often goes unnoticed. Everytime they argue, he grabs her forcefully but not in an abrupt manner but rather in a subtle manner. This is the kind of abuse that goes unnoticed (but he didn’t hit her, it was just verbal arguments) and women are often told to give in. And he is abusive even to her family – theres a scene where he is asked to leave from the colonels funeral and he returns in the evening (after everyone has left) to abuse her family who don’t respond to him at all. He gets angered that he is ignored and not a word is said and lashes out at them (case of feeling unrespected).
It’s not that VC doesn’t know he is abusive, he knows that he is similar to his own abusive father but he thinks he isn’t as bad. There’s a scene where he stands up for his mother and disabled brother but at the very same time attacks Leela. That’s a classic example of kids who grew up in abusive environments who tend to be protective to ones they have seen being abused but are unable to correlate their own abusive nature.
She finally walks away and doesn’t divulge her whereabouts to her friends. In that time VC is captured by the Enemy and rots in a jail in Pakistan. The movie was set around the Kargil war ( I must say I was hoping for a proper tribute to the war but this wasn’t that). In that time he is filled with remorse, seemingly showing signs of remorse, and that it is thoughts of Leela that is keeping him alive. He escapes, returns and starts searching for her.
This is the part that I am unable to accept. Right up to this point Mani has created a strong woman who stands up and eventually walks away. He has also tackled a few other social policing in this movie. Leela left VC despite being 3 months pregnant, and that is one of the strongest moments in this movie – done very subtly (again a Mani trademark), that it doesn’t hit you that she left while being pregnant till you sit down and contemplate the movie. There’s also a wedding scene (loved the cinematography there btw) where the bride is 9 months pregnant and is rushed to the hospital in labour on her wedding day. So up till the ending, Mani has done a movie that shows characters that defy social stigma, social expectations on what is expected of a woman.
So Vc finds the camp where Leela works but he doesn’t approach it and instead sits and waits in the sand. Leela spots him and rushes to him. The scene is similar to that moment in Alaypayudhe when Shalini rushes to Madhavan and professes her love. Only the moments in the relationship is different. There, they were at the beginning of the courtship. Here we are at the reuniting moment of lovers who are no longer together.
That strong women we saw in the last 2hours and 15 minutes is gone. Instead this woman is gushing in happiness, wants to hug him, wants him back. VC asks – did they say I was dead – missing in action (probably wondering why she is happy to see him) but she says no, I knew you were back, I saw it on tv. She then introduces their daughter Ro (yes she kept the baby – another social stigma addressed – unmarried mother). And the next thing we know, in the shortest Mani climax ever, they are hugging and back together. And VC asks why didn’t you call and she says – I didn’t know if you will accept Ro and me.
I’m all for forgiveness but at no point does she question whether he has changed. They barely met for a few minutes. Seriously this was the shortest and what felt like a rushed climax I have seen in a Mani movie. Instead she was worried that he wouldn’t accept her. Hello what happened to that strong women who walked away while being 3 months pregnant? Who tells VC that she doesn’t care about marriage or having a baby – she just wants him – where’s that liberal woman?
I was just sitting in disbelief at that scene and mumbling when my friend says – dai why you hating on her getting sex after three years? As funny as that is, lets take sex into equation, Leela had no qualms of sleeping with VC, in that three years if sex was the issue, it could have been with anyone else. To suddenly show that she was a traditional woman who only slept with one man would make the whole character build-up of Leela mean nothing!
Or was it that society got to her? Did the last three years of being a single mother make her feel it was better to be with an abusive man than be alone? That will be contradictory to the fact that she was travelling in remote places in India with the Red Cross together with her child. That’s a woman who refused to abandon the kid she decided to have out of wedlock nor her passion to serve where medical help was much needed.
So how did that women, accept VC without even asking him – how do I know you have actually changed?
Or did his being a captive prisoner, make her forget all the bad memories and remember only the jaded good moments in their relationship that seeing him was actually seeing that jaded vision of him built in her mind?
Or was Mani just showing that as with many abused victims, the victim often goes back at the first sight of remorse?
Tragic isn’t it if that was the case?