Kaatru Veliyidai: Peeling the layers

By Pavithra Selvam

Introduction:

Leela, VC, VC Leela – bonded together by fate and their intense, eduring love for each other.
This is the story of how two highly opinionated people, with diametrically opposite personalities, grow, mature and evolve over time and space to eventually discover that they are indeed soulmates.
As is the case with any long-term committed relationship, rooted within this relationship is laughter, happiness, tears, sorrow, mistakes, conflict, change, adjustment, compromise, evolution, growth, passion and intense yearning for one another. In popular parlance we like to term this experience as ‘love’, but perhaps, the Hindi word ‘chaahat’, does a better job of describing it.
Kaatru Veliyidai is nothing new. It is nothing special. It is every love story. It is your relationship and mine. This is what makes it such a gripping film. Because none of our relationships are perfect – it is fraught with imperfections painted by the shades of grey in our personalities that almost never blend in with those of our partners. It is this contrast in our sensibilities that push us to abhor one another during times of conflict and yet, somehow magically, when we manage to flow past those difficult moments, find it hopelessly impossible to resist the magical hues of sparkle in our partners’ personalities. This is the reason we often stick together despite the odds – because the compromise is worth it. Because we are incomplete without each other. Because we are each others’ redemption. Because we find functionality in our dysfunctionality. Our own stories are also VC and Leela’s stories.

Kaatru Veliyidai gives us a peek into this very journey and how when a life-changing event occurs, it powerfully throws their priorities into perspective.

Leela and VC: Who are they?

Leela:
Leela Abraham is a Tamil Christian doctor, born and raised in Delhi and moves to Sri Nagar to work in the Sri Nagar General Hospital. Her father, Abraham, is a criminal lawyer (similar to Karthik’s father in Alaipayuthey) who practices in Delhi. We know little about Leela’s mother as she doesn’t speak much. However, we know that Leela’s mother concurs with her husband when it comes to her disapproval of VC. Leela had an elder brother, Ravi, who was also a fighter pilot. Ravi died in combat when Leela was in the 12th standard. It is noteworthy that Ravi and VC were batch-mates and that VC was supposed to take Ravi’s place in the sortie which took his life. Ravi, like his grandfather, colonel Mithran, was attracted to the armed forces, it seems. Leela and Ravi seemed to have shared a close relationship. She knew both VC and VC’s boss through the letters she had received from her brother while she was still in school. Leela comes to practice medicine in Sri Nagar despite her mother’s (understandable) disapproval (after her son’s death). It is almost as though she wants to be in Sri Nagar to save lives in order to atone the death of brother. And then on her very first day in this pursuit, she’s handed a severely injured VC – the same VC who lived instead of her brother – to save and nurture. It is this chance meeting that sets the tone to the rest of their relationship and lives. VC is special to Leela because she sees her brother’s doppelgänger in him and can somehow vicariously live her brother’s life and experiences through VC’s eyes. The letters Ravi sent Leela as a teen seemed to have created a fascination for the armed forces in her mind when she was still an impressionable teen.

Varun Chakrapani:
VC is a very complex character. He has a troubled past which colours his perception of the present. VC is a Tamil Pillai Air Force Fighter Pilot born and raised in Delhi. His mother, Lakshmi Chakrapani, is a Tamil professor at the DU. His father, Chakrapani Pillai, is a spare parts dealer – quite an interesting pairing – an (idealistic?) academic and a businessman who constantly tries to fix ‘damaged goods’ (and probably views the world through this lens? Can VC’s father only see people as errors that need to be fixed?). VC has 3 other siblings- a sister who describes him as an ‘Arakan’, a younger brother who is wheel-chair bound and an elder brother whose character VC describes as ‘Buddhan’. We know that VC’s father is a controlling person and has a history of physical abuse from the scene in the hospital. He also describes his visibly normal (and defenceless) wheel-chair bound son as someone with ‘mental problems’ (Did he also do similar things to VC when he was younger?). What then does he think of VC and his siblings? How did VC’s childhood and his relationship with his father shape his own personality? Did VC’s father treat him and his brother differently enough that they evolved into an ‘Arakan’ and a ‘Buddhan’? These are questions we are left to ponder upon. We also know that VC detests his father and wants to be nothing like him from the scene where VC and Leela discuss their pregnancy.

However, it almost seems like VC cannot help himself and uses his charm instead to mask his flaws. VC is an air-force pilot and his strength lies in his hatred for the enemy. It defines him – almost like Samson’s hair defined him. He refutes every attempt to humanise the enemy – almost like he’s scared of allowing it to happen. He also displays this tendency with other people in his life who are not his enemies – as we see with Girija. He is a playboy with her and dumps her the minute she starts demanding emotional commitment. For VC, anyone who requires humanising is someone who can potentially hurt him – perhaps like his father. He tells his junior officer who is about to face the enemy for the first time that he is neither an Arjuna (who lays down his arms and refused to fight the Kurukshetra war against his brothers) nor is VC a Krishna (Arjuna’s mentor who preaches him the Bhagavad Gita and persuades him to fight), and that Kargil is different from Kurukshetra. It is also the same point that Leela makes when VC watches a news piece on TV and expresses his unhappiness about the government’s reluctance to undertake military action. When Leela reasons that taking a cautious approach towards military action is reasonable, VC loses his cool. It is difficult to pin-point whether VC turns vicious in this scene because he wants to stop Leela from humanising the enemy or because he wants to stop her from having an opinion. I’d like to lean towards the former. For VC, he is strong only as long as he sees his enemy as someone who is out there to get him. The minute he starts empathising with his enemy’s cause, he loses. When Leela starts reasoning from the other side, VC is scared of succumbing to her reasoning and wants her to stop and will do anything in his power to make her stop – just like he did during the snowstorm scene – he will do everything in his power to make her move from that place. If VC wants something, VC will go to any lengths to get it (just like he did when escaping prison). What then causes VC to humanise Leela? Is it because he feels indebted / guilty because Leela lost her brother because of him? Is it because Leela saved his life? Or is it because he has never ever come across anyone who gave him a second chance in his life? VC himself tells his junior officer that there are no second chances and one mistake can mean they return in a bodybag. Is VC so smitten by Leela because, she (a girl raised with Christian values which glorify forgiveness as a virtue), is able to offer him forgiveness every time and gives him space and time to evolve and change? This dichotomy between VC’s world and Leela’s worlds is what sets the pace for the rest of their relationship.

These two diametrically different people shaped by their childhood experiences meet each other and it is literally love at first sight. It’s as though destiny brought them together.

Let’s try to break down a few scenes that I found interesting.

Leela and VC after their first date:
The setting of this scene reminds me of the scene where Arjun drops Meera off after their beach date in Aayutha Ezhuthu. VC casually flirted with and pursued Leela until he finds out that she is Ravi Abraham’s sister. Once he learns who Leela is, he acknowledges the chemistry but says that it could be dangerous for them to pursue this any further. Looking at VC’s history, he comes across as the kind of guy who wouldn’t bother to call after the first date if he didn’t want to. But here, VC takes the effort to let Leela know that he wouldn’t be in touch. It seems like his guilt had something to do with this change in behaviour. And true to his words, he disappears for about 2 months until Leela comes looking for him in Leh. It almost seems like VC, well aware of his own inability to form constructive relationships, makes a conscious effort to keep away from Leela.

Leela and VC meet in Leh:
This is such a beautiful scene. Leela’s beautiful singing of Bole Re Papi Hara and Nidhi’s buoyant dancing beautifully pad the electric currents that run between VC and Leela’s eyes. VC starts of with, “Edhirpaarkala…” and then goes on to say, “Indha rendu maasathula best moment idhuthaan…”. Let’s remember and reserve this “Edhirpaarkala” for the climax scene. But this scene is so very similar to the scene in where Madhavan and Shalini get back together in Alaipayuthey. Medical camp in Cannanoore District vs. Flying camp(?) in Leh. The preceding scene where Nidhi and Leela meet Iliyas and enquire about VC is also similar to the corresponding scene in Alaipayuthey. Cliche much?

Leela and VC go to the Rimo Kangri II peak
VC and Leela take off to visit the peak where Leela’s brother lost his life. Leela is spellbound by the beauty of the snow. VC, in a moment of weakness, probably wants to propose his love to Leela – but we don’t know for sure because we are unable to see the expression in his eyes (he is wearing shades). It seems that lovelorn couples who’ve been apart say and do the most impulsive things in the Mani Ratnam movie-verse. In Alaipayuthey, Karthik and Shakthi decide to have an impulsive registered marriage; in Iruvar, Anandhan orders Kalpana to be brought back despite knowing that it’d not be the wisest move for his career; in Aayutha Ezhuthu, Meera breaks her arranged marriage with the poor Sivakasi maapilai and in Guru, Gurunath tells Sujatha that he’d win over the entire world if she’s with him. The one exception to all this is of course, Raavanan, where the heroine ends up falling in love with someone else in the meantime. Bear with me for a moment while I LOL a little here 🙂

Anyway, coming back to this scene, this is the first intense scene that we are privy to. What starts off as a very innocent negotiation very quickly escalates into a full-blown confrontation very much like the the changing weather and the approaching snowstorm in the backdrop – Wow! I need a minute to take in the beauty of that scene before I can proceed any further.

VC starts off by telling Leela that a snowstorm may be approaching. An excited Leela, who probably doesn’t understand the consequences of a snowstorm suggests that they stay back to watch the storm pass by. VC tries reasoning with her that it could be dangerous. However, she continues negotiating with him to stay between 5 and 15 minutes. At this point he says ‘makku maari pesaatha’ and pulls her arm. This doesn’t go well with Leela. The confrontation builds up and VC ends up saying that he will hit her and drag her out of the situation if she didn’t cooperate with him. For Leela, this is an insult to her worth as a woman and says that she hates men who show their physical strength against women. She eventually tells him to leave by himself. VC is now left with three options: Leave her to die in the snowstorm, Remove her by force and earn Leela’s hatred or reason with her.
This is probably the the first time in VC’s life that he is faced with such a situation. Usually, it is, “If VC wants something, VC will go to any lengths to get it”. This won’t work with Leela though. His physical power won’t move her. He’s now left with no other option but to reason with her and that’s exactly what wins her heart. “Apdi solla vendithu thaana, ethuku makkunu thitra? Kai ongara?,” says Leela.

This scene is also the exact same scene from the OK Kanmani climax where Adi and Tara are driving around to find Bhavani aunty. Adi yells at Tara because she suddenly gets down from the car and almost gets hit by another vehicle. Tara says, “Enna erakki vitudu naan thaniya poi thedaren… En mela akkarai irutha akkarai irukkunu nera sollen, yen satham podara?” This is the same sentiment Leela echoes as well.

Leela also cleverly uses this situation to prod a little into VC’s feelings. When faced with the prospect of losing her to the snow (like he lost Ravi), VC vulnerably opens his heart to Leela and confesses his love for her.

VC and Leela in the hospital:

This scene is such a well-shot one. It skilfully captures the dynamics within the Chakrapani family. VC squirms when his brother Deepak points out that Leela isn’t the first girl he has brought home. An argument quickly ensues where VC’s dad humiliates his mom and VC comes to her defence. When VC yells at his dad, Leela offers the exact same argument that VC’s mom initially offered her husband. VC ends up reacting in the exact same, despicable manner in which his dad had reacted with his mom. He becomes to Leela, the very same person he is trying to defend his mom from. Scenes like this give us a peek into VC’s troubled relationship with his dad and how he isn’t able stop himself from emulating the very man he despises for lack of better male role-models. Even his boss in the Air Force seems like a sexist prick. His response to Brigadier Kapoor was, “Ponna ozhunga valaka theriyala”.

These dialogues help us understand how VC has never had the opportunity to look up to any man who has the habit of humanising women. In his male-dominated world of Air Force service, women seem to be a rarity and it seems like he doesn’t really understand they too can have feelings. The big question is this – does this lack of nuanced understanding make VC a bad person? I think not. We see these men everyday in our lives. They are all around us. Our engineering colleges produce men like this who have no clue what it is to humanise women. Are they all bad? Does that mean we have an entire population of bad men? Hell No! We don’t!

VC and Leela discuss a ‘local issue’:

“Leela will you please keep quiet?”
“Why?”
“Because I say so…”
“Naan pombalenrathu problema illa naan oru civilian doctornrathu problema?”
Why does VC lose his cool here? VC obviously comes with pre-conceived notions about who the enemy is and what they are capable of doing. He, in his own words, later on, says that he is built for combat. Leela on the other hand is trying to reason and give the benefit-of-doubt. VC, in my estimation is also uncomfortable with the idea of humanising the enemy and trying to find justification for not going into combat mode. This is when he desperately tries to stop Leela. The scene is set in front of all of VC’s colleagues. This time around, it is impossible for VC to lay bare his true fears / feelings about the situation to Leela in front of all of his colleagues. The scene in Rimo Kangri cannot be repeated here. Leela has not yet taught VC how to elicit his feelings without hurting her whilst in public.

So far, he only knows how to do that in private – when the two of them are alone. To compensate and to make Leela stop immediately, he yells at her and insults her. However, he immediately realises what he has done and apologises to Leela. Leela accepts his apology and asks if a woman is not supposed to have an opinion. VC, somehow uncomfortable about this conversation (perhaps in public), tries to turn it into sexist banter (the only kind he probably knows). When Leela takes offence to his ‘humour’, he asks her, in a rather puzzled tone, “edhuku ivlo kova padra”. He has absolutely no clue what is pissing Leela off. VC crosses the limit and begins insulting Leela when he starts talking about how men and women are different. Does VC say this purely to hurt her, or is that what he really believe in? Don’t we see these men everywhere, all the time? Apart from being puzzled, he’s also unable to understand why Leela doesn’t fight back. Why is this person getting offended instead of fighting back, wonders VC? “First time sanda varuthu… Ninnu sanda podama odi pora paaru… Thamizh ponna moram eduthutu vara venaam?,” he says. VC knows only conflict and combat. Not fighting is not an option in VC’s world. He is unable to understand why Leela doesn’t retaliate.

Apology and Public Humiliation:

When VC apologises to Leela, he says that he is beneath her. They can never be equals because she is superior to him. Leela who wanted an equal relationship only a few seconds ago, somehow doesn’t seem to have a problem with this new idea of her being the superior one in the relationship. Strange. VC then goes on to say that he has no one if she left him. VC, as we know, has a big family and lots of friends, but it seems no one in all his social circle would afford him a second chance except Leela and this is VC’s magnetic attraction towards her. No one else would walk away hurt instead of putting up a fight. He has never seen anyone like Leela – which is why he comes back to her (remember his track record?). This scene got me all teary eyed. Such a lovely scene.
Leela on the other hand, has been raised with Christian values. Forgiveness is what she’s been taught in Sunday school all through her growing up years. It is second nature to her. She is someone who grew up listening to stories like the Prodigal Son – stories where the sinner transforms and turns over a new leaf because they’ve been given a second chance. This is what Leela’s whole faith is about. It is about kindness, forgiveness and second chances. Mani Ratnam made an entire movie about this subject – Kadal. Remember the scene where Beatrice playfully washes away Thomas’ sins with her hands? Kaatru Veliyidai continues on the same Christian theme of sin and forgiveness. VC who himself preaches to his junior officer that there are no second chances, is amazed that someone will actually cut him some slack. It’s a revelation to him. She is the kindest person he has met and because of that he places her above him.

A weird scene follows. Just when Leela thinks that all is well, she’s met by all of VC’s colleagues waiting for them to arrive. VC boasts to them that he is the most lucky man in the world and that he already knew that she’d come if VC called. VC always knew that Leela would forgive him and this is why he is so magnetically attracted to her in the first place. Leela though upset by his display, decides not to say anything. This is probably how a lot of women would also react too, though. I have no explanation why. But this happens. We just choose our battles, I guess.

Later on, Leela is convinced enough to tell VC that she is in love with him. Does she do this out of pity for him? Does her maternal instinct take over and she suddenly decides to shower this lovelorn man who has never experienced affection, let alone love? It sure seems like that to me. It’s almost like she wants him to give him the joy he has never ever experienced in his life and redeem him. VC’s line, “Irul illama enna velicham?” sums up my thoughts concisely.

Leela somehow thinks of herself as a queen who can bestow her abundant love to anyone she pleases. Though Leela tells VC not to treat her like a dog / slave, in reality, it is Leela who is actually training VC to behave in a manner he’s never been accustomed to (leaving aside the right and wrong of his behaviour), by throwing biscuits of forgiveness at him. By showing VC something he has never had, she makes him slave to her whimsical passion. There are at least 2 references to the word ‘maharani’ in the movie- first when she visits her grandfather and second when she confronts VC for not turning up at the registrar’s office. She calls herself a Rani in both instances, apart from the references in the song ‘Sarattu Vandiyila’. Leela is shown wearing the colour purple in the song Vaan. Purple as we all know is the colour of royalty. It is Leela who is the real Queen of the relationship.

Why does VC forget the registrar office?

Do you remember the scene from Iruvar where Kalpana is stood up at the temple by Anandan? One can’t question Anandan’s feelings for Kalpana for a single minute. However, Anandan hesitates to carry through his marriage promise to Kalpana. It’s the same dynamic at play here one more time. VC probably remembered, but like in the first date, he again questions his own ability to be a good husband to Leela – he says so later in the pregnancy scene too. Going to Delhi was probably an excuse. But what does Leela do? She says forgetting is ok, but he could’ve called because there is ‘tension’ around!!! She then goes on to hit him where it hurts most – she says, ‘Raani maari treat panra illa keezha potu medhikira’. VC says very earnestly – “No, Never” and this accusation opens the floodgates for him again. VC never wants to be this person. VC does not want to be the person his dad is. To stop her from continuing down the path of accusation, he tries to change the topic to banter – just like he did in the scene where they discuss the news. What seems like banter to him, is in fact public humiliation for Leela. It burns VC to deal with those raw emotions that he has skilfully hidden away in a dark corner of his heart. He tries very hard to be a different man than his father but he fails miserably because he doesn’t know how. The minute someone tries to bring those emotions to the surface, VC will do anything to stop the other person from going down that path. He simply doesn’t want to deal with them.

What are we not seeing?

By only showing us the rough patches, Mani Rathnam has deprived us of the happiness that VC and Leela undoubtedly share. They are probably like every normal couple who have fun a lot of the times. Just because we don’t see it, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It’s almost like listening to a close friend’s fights with their partner. You only hear about the times that they feel like talking about – the difficult times. However, there’s also undoubtedly romance, laughter, love and irresistible passion that is driving the relationship. These moments are treasured private jewels and remain in those intimate spaces. Similarly, these moments in Kaatru Veliyidai are not privy to us. They exist enough for a doctor and a pilot to decide they don’t mind unprotected sex, but are not available for us to enjoy.

What happens with Kaatru Veliyidai is that we end up developing an opinion on the Leela-VC relationship and start putting the incidents in the right and wrong boxes. In reality, however, it is VC and Leela themselves who have to decide what is worth sticking together for and what isn’t. There is no right and wrong. It’s the classic case of developing an opinion on a friend’s asshole partner, and holding the same opinion for years to come, when the friend and their partner themselves have long gone past that phase of their lives. As an outsider we only get a glimpse of the Leela-VC relationship and Mani Rathnam hits us on the head and tells us to stop being so judgemental.

Pregnancy and Confrontation:

When Leela tells him about their pregnancy, VC’s first expressions are that of happiness. He clearly wants this child. However, there are questions that start clouding his head. His reaction is similar to that of Shekar’s in Bombay. Even the dialogues of the female protagonists are similar.

This is one of the most interesting scenes in this movie. When Leela tells VC about the pregnancy, she only wants one thing- a clear Yes or No. She wants a clear, practical answer. However, for VC, this again opens a floodgate of emotions. This is the same person who joked about having a child with Girija and unceremoniously dumped her in the first instance. This is a person who doesn’t want to deal with emotional commitment. However, notice how VC is now a LOT more conducive, emotive and expressive about articulating his fears. He even does a pretty damn good job of it. I mean, even I am proud of how far VC has come from being the insensitive person he was earlier on in the film. Every fight, every apology, every mistake and every second chance has allowed VC to develop and evolve into the emotionally intelligent person Leela wants him to be. VC in this scene, is talking about his fears. He has learnt to deal with those dark emotions – he can even talk about his father and the associated emotions without getting angry. In fact, he weeps in dismay and is unsure of himself and worries if he will end up being a bad father.

Leela, who is going through a big change in her own life, is seen to just ask the yes or no question. Leela’s ability to see shades of grey (like she did in the news scene) no longer seem to exist. Here we have VC weeping about his deepest childhood fears and Leela doesn’t seem to care a damn. She even says, “Enakku nee mattum podhum”. Doesn’t this sound like something VC would’ve said earlier on in the film? If VC wants, VC gets.

She has become a like VC here. VC and VC’s father are the ones who displayed Yes or No tendencies in the film earlier on. Suddenly we see how Leela has become a bit like VC and VC a bit like Leela. In the process of their relationship they’ve exchanged personalities. All Leela had to say was, “You will be a fantastic dad. You are nothing like your father.” However she doesn’t say that.
VC, by saying the things he said, is fishing for her approval – for it is she who taught him how to emote. However Leela’s reaction leaves VC puzzled as he doesn’t seem to understand what he did wrong. He has now behaved in the exact same manner that Leela had taught him to behave – to emote and to reason, rather than to use his anger as a shield to mask his emotions. He even implores her, “Ipdi pesama pona enna artham?”

Remember the snowstorm scene? Leela in very definite terms tells him to talk about his real emotions instead of shouting at her.

VC: “Antha pani ippo sarinjuthu naa, unnayum ennayum sethu muzhungidum”
Leela: “Apdi solla vendithu thaana, ethuku makkunu thitra? Kai ongara?”
However, now, when VC like a good student does exactly as told, she punishes him by walking away. She has forgotten her own values. She is unable to empathise with what VC is saying. Instead she assumes that VC doesn’t want the child and walks away. VC pulls off a fantastic expression in this scene. There’s a shot where the camera closes up on VC’s face once Leela gets up and says, “Naan paathukaren”. VC’s facial expression in this scene expresses fear and apprehension. His body cringes inwards and his eyes speak of uncertainty. This is the best shot that Karthi has performed in his career and one of the finest pieces of acting in Tamil Cinema. Hats off to Karthi for so subtly and beautifully emoting this difficult scene.

VC and Leela before VC takes off:

Leela goes to the airfield to say goodbye to VC before leaving Sri Nagar. Here VC begs her not leave and give her just one chance. VC is a completely changed man in this scene. He says he will do just as she pleases. He says that Leela will change him – he has been going through this change throughout their relationship and is very confident that the remaining rough edges can also be smoothened out if

Seven years later:

In the intro scene, as VC tries to woo Leela, he says, “Dr. Leelavukku enna senja nambikkai varum?”
“7 kadal thaandi, 7 malai thaandi, 7 varusham thaandi manasu adhe sonna nambikkai varalaam, maybe,” quips Leela.

When VC finally finds Leela, 7 years later (4 years in prison(?) and 3 years searching for her after he returns to India. The child sure looks 7 years old.), he even tells her that he has come almost crossed 7 mountains and 7 seas looking for her. I love this metaphor. So beautiful. I love how this ties the film neatly together. It is the story of a man crossing 7 seas, 7 mountains and a Kaatru Veliyidai to come looking for his love. How beautiful!

Over these 7 years, as we learn from his narration, he has had ample time to reflect and relive his relationship with Leela. He has had enough time to introspect and come to terms with his own demons. People change over a period of 7 years and this is what has also happened to VC. He had already changed a lot before he left on his mission. However, this untoward incident of being taken POW starkly threw his priorities in front of him. Just like in the snowstorm scene when he confessed his love to Leela. Just like in Alaipayuthey, when Karthik is so relived to see Shakti alive.

Over 7 years, across 7 mountains and 7 seas, knowing Mani Rathnam’s movies, we also should assume that he has emotionally travelled the 7 stages of love which we know of from Uyire / Dil Se.

7 stages of love from Uyire

As a viewer, you know the transformation is complete when VC says, “Disturb pannanum nu varala…”. This is the same overbearing guy who didn’t care about Girija’s safety when he made that dangerous turn in the mountains. He himself acknowledges in the voiceover that he has changed from thinking only about himself to thinking about others.
This climax scene also reminds me of the these lines from Snehithane from Alaipayuthey where Karthik sings of surrender.

“Koonthal nelivil ezhil kola charivil
Garvam azhinthathadi, En Garvam Azhinthathadi”

So from “Garvam kondaal kallaai uraivaan” to “Garvam azhinthathadi”, from Alaipayuthey to Kaatru Veliyidai, we’ve got the same theme going. When you love intensely, your fears, your ego, your insecurities are all broken down and thrown into trash by your partner… You chisel yourself, sometimes, constructively, sometimes destructively, to be the best partner you can be to the other person.

Conclusion:

Kaatru Veliyidai is so real that it is rather uncomfortable to accept. We’d rather find comfort in the dichotomy of the hero and the villain. But here, no one is good or bad (this is the theme of every Mani Rathnam movie, of course). Everyone is continuously shaped by their experiences in life, softened by kindness and forgiveness and hardened by resentment and punishment. This is the story of Kaatru Veliyidai. (Fun-fact: This was also the story of Kadal.)

VC is softened continuously by Leela’s kindness. Leela is continuously hardened by VC’s harsh treatment. A big life-changing incident throws their priorities into perspective. Leela learns to respect VC and keep away. VC learns to look for Leela because he understands that he has wronged her and needs to desperately apologise to her.

When VC sees Rohini for the first time, he doesn’t assume that Rohini is his child. It’s almost like he comes there fully prepared to face rejection. He embraces the fact that Leela could’ve well moved on with her life and found love with another man. He only wants her to forgive him. The last freeze frame where VC, Leela and Rohini hug each other is poetry on celluloid. It depicts two imperfect adults brought together by their immense sacrifice for each other and a love child who binds them together. They don’t have it all together, but together they have it all, and that is what matters most.

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