Romance is at the core of Mani Ratnam’s movies. It is the heart of all his films. So far.
When the teaser for Cheliyaa came out, I didn’t like it one bit. The trailer was worse, although I came to realize that it was the opposite for almost everyone else.
By no means did I like the movie. It was a PAIN. Torture, really. Long, dull, sad, irritating, unintentionally comic, needlessly poetic, disguised as a love story, Cheliyaa is one movie I would never want to hear about again. For one, I am deeply disappointed, beyond repair if I may say so, to the point that I will give a second thought before I watch a Mani Ratnam movie ever again. Or maybe I’ll watch his next on the first day, because, Mani Ratnam 😛 But seriously, I STILL cannot believe this is coming from such a talented man. Mani Ratnam movies make you fall in love with them, with the idea of love, and with the next person you talk to, with your greatest enemy even. There is no glimpse of that charm in his latest outing.
You expect real, natural chemistry between the pair. A chemistry that flows like a stream, flowing amidst numerous boulders, across different terrains, breaking boundaries. It worked for so many of his films in the past. However, his more recent ventures are telling a different story, I’m told. I haven’t watch both OK Bangaram and Kadali, but I’ve heard Kadali was a disaster and OK Bangaram fared comparatively better. The common talk seems to be that Ratnam’s films are no more what they used to be. I cannot say much about OK Bangaram and Kadali but this one, Cheliyaa, is a train-wreck. There is no sense of direction in this movie. All the characters are paper-thin, their relationships even thinner, their emotions the thinnest. You never understand why a character is behaving a certain way. It’s just that they do, and they do it in a pronounced way. If they are happy, they are happy like they’re on weed and laughing their assess off. If they are sad, there is JUST sadness. All around. Only weeping. And all this happens through dialogues that are poetic NEEDLESSLY. I am not sure who penned dialogues for this film and I don’t want to bother myself by checking out in the Internet (I think it is Kiran, IIRC from the credits) but man, why did you have to be so poetic? There’s one way you can be poetic. Write poems. NOT dialogues.
And for the hundredth time I ask, where the hell is love here? I couldn’t see any. Not in the way the hero thinks he owns the heroine. Not in the way this male chauvinistic self passes sexist comments every-so-subtly. Not in the way he carries himself around the person he says he loves. There is no love here. If anything this dude is CREEPY. That girl is clingy, always with an urge to hold on to him and always with the urge to get back to him regardless of how much of an ass he is. I am telling you again, this is by no means a love story. Because simply, there’s no love here. Only a show of power, chauvinism and indecisiveness.
The music is amazing. I rarely listen to songs before I watch the movie. I haven’t listened to these songs before too. I watched them onscreen and the songs are simply amazing! The camerawork is oh-so-good! On the downside, everything else falls apart. Aditi Rao Hydari does her best but hers is an expression of either extreme happiness or extreme sadness to the point of tearing up or worse, tearing up. There are hardly any variations the character offers, honestly. Karthi is a decent actor but here he is not in his element. The short hair and clean shave didn’t go with him one bit, but the character demanded, but it still didn’t go with him, and his expressions came off as weird and creepy, especially in the close-up shots. In fact, the absence of any facial hair and a short haircut came in the way of his expressions, strangely, their absence attracting too much attention than his expressions.
And the movie JUST DOESN’T END. I lost count of how many times I looked at my watch, hoping I’d make my way out sooner than later. As if the pathetic “love story” wasn’t enough, there is a Kargil War thingy that goes on. Peshawar. Afghanistan. Karthi in prison trying to escape from a prison (a direct rip-off of the legendary Shawshank Redemption sequence). RJ Balaji has nothing to do. He is mostly restricted to a few dialogues, the most used one being “Oh”. There is also a small not-so-funny joke about the same in the movie. Rukmini Vijaykumar seems to be in the movie only because the heroine needs a friend, RJ Balaji needs a not-so-obvious pairing, and because she is a dancer. The heroine’s grandad does little.
One thing I liked about the film is that they tried to normalize pregnancy before marriage. Not make a big deal out of it.
Overall, this movie is nothing but just great music and exceptional camerawork. These two positives are far outweighed by the uncountable negatives and therefore, please don’t watch this nightmare of a film.