I had a pretty emotional reaction to Kaatru Veliyidai fresh off of watching it. Now though, Aditi Rao Hydari’s beautiful face has grown on me, and the soundtrack is rather a earworm. I can’t stop thinking about some little moments in the movie that struck a chord.
I wish Mani Ratnam wrote novels, instead of making movies. That way, he doesn’t have the constraint of two and a half hours or the movie format, and he can explore his characters deeply with small little scenes that add up. I could read pages and pages of stuff illustrating and explaining why Leela loves VC.
That scene where she’s singing and doing her chores, when she hears an aircraft, and steps out to look at it…. and then comes back in, singing and doing her chores right where she left. So silly, so childish. And so real.
The Heroine’s Friend is such an abused and under-acted role usually. The director usually takes great pains to make the Heroine’s Friend as generic and unattractive in comparison to the heroine as possible. If she stands out in any way, it’s usually played for laughs. Even Swarnamallya in Alaipayuthey was bland.
But Rukmini Vijaykumar as Nidhi is delectably three-dimensional. She has a crush on RJ Balaji, but doesn’t let that get in the way of enjoying male attention, and on top of everything, dances like a dream. I particularly loved when she accompanies Leela to Leh, Leela gets busy doing her own thing with VC, and Nidhi is just having a blast dancing with the rest of the regiment.
I love how the scene cuts from Leela and Nidhi hearing that VC is in Leh, to Nidhi and Leela on a bus to Leh. Everyone can do with at least one friend who partakes in all their crazy schemes.
More than all of that though, what stood out for me is how Leela always has a legit reason to be around wherever VC is. She came to Srinagar because she ‘wanted to go as far from home as possible’. She shows up at the flying club because she is meeting her late brother’s commanding officer. She shows up at Leh saying she wants to see her brother’s last resting place. But we know those things aren’t really the reason why.
Finally, what I find most remarkable is how Leela has an image of VC from her brother’s letters in her high school days, and how that, and her brother dying, has such a strong impact on her that the image stays with her for years despite the universe working actively to destroy it. It’s a sobering thought to know how vulnerable the best and most loved among us can be to demons from our past, especially because of familiar and satiating they feel.