Apr 19, 2017

Windy landscapes

I could never predict if I'd like a Mani Ratnam movie. My all time favorite romances includes 'Mouna Ragam', but I couldn't stand 'Ravan' and 'Yuva' and was so thankful for the FF button, although I did like 'OK Kanmani'.  So, my expectations were fairly neutral when I went to watch 'Katru Veliyidai' last weekend. And the overall feeling I walked out with was acute perplexity.

First of all, please don't say that this is loosely based on DOTS. It is not. Most certainly not.  Other hapless souls like me out there who love Yoo Shi Jin, stay away. Yes, the last shot is very similar and yes, it has a doctor [of sorts] heroine. But that's about it. VC is as far away from Yoo Shi Jin as Korea is from TamilNadu.

The movie is stylishly shot, the views of the snow-capped mountains are spectacular, scenes are filled with pretty people, [the women conveniently clad in mid-riff exposing attire in Himalayan cold temperatures,] and the music is catchy [the subtitles hilarious]. The plot in itself isn't much but that would have been alright if the characters were well developed.

And therein is my reason number 1 for the perplexity. As a writer, more than half the time, I notice my characters are interpreted in ways divergent from what I had in my head. I know how hard it is to portray the traits and the backstory within the constraints of the page and the frame. Accounting for all that, I still felt Mani Ratnam hadn't tried hard enough to flesh out the characters. What is the purpose of the silly wedding dance?  Why does he cut away so soon  [literally after 4 lines of uninspiring conversation]? What's VC's problem really? Is he someone unable to outgrow his childhood conditioning, is he a product of the testosterone-rich army culture, is he simply a chauvinistic pig or is he all of the above? And whatever brought about a change of heart? Actually, has he even had a change of heart? What's up with her?  Is she happy to visit the place where her brother died? And she decides to celebrate her love there because..?  And Sheesh! That drama in front of the parents.There is a pseudo-deep conversation between two friends that is half-heartedly offered as an explanation for her odd behavior.   'Love' apparently is like that. I didn't know. Sometimes one just needs a single dialogue, a single expression to tell a lot. But such a single sophisticated brush stroke needs a lot of hard work. There were many brush strokes but they were half-hearted, never connected, and out of whack, some reiterating the same point needlessly at the cost of some other important development.

My perplexity number 2 is a bit beyond this movie. Why is it we repeatedly make our heroes the kind of overgrown boys, prone to tantrums, wanting their girls to be mamas to make them better? Ill-treating, stalking and then somehow managing to receive joyful, even grateful love and acceptance seems to be the salient traits of the proto-hero of many Tamil movies. After all that she goes through, the doctor heroine cries in the end, 'What if you didn't like me anymore?' Talk about entitlement! Ms. Heroine, you must love the hero not for who he is but despite who he is.  I can already hear the glib responses - 'Women are better.' 'We are not proud of that kind of behavior. We are not justifying it.' 'We are showing the vulnerability.' 'Women are stronger.' Jeez. Enough already. Seriously, can't we show more young men with bigger purpose who win the hearts of women by being nice to them? As much for the sake of our young girls as for the young boys?

Who knew the wide open spaces of the windy landscape would turn out to be so stifling.

April 19, 2017