Mani Ratnam’s latest Tamil film Kaatru Veliyidai is released in Telugu as Cheliya. Starring Karthi and Aditi Rao Hydari in the lead roles, Cheliya is a romantic drama set in Kargil war backdrop. The film moves at a snail pace and puts the viewers patience to test. Besides the beautiful visuals and talented lead pair, there is nothing to rave about this boring romance.
What is it about?
Varun (Karthi) is a fighter pilot in Indian Force. When he meets with a fatal accident, Dr. Leela Abraham (Aditi) treats him. He falls in love with her and she too falls for his charm. Differences crop up between the couple as Varun is short tempered and ill treats her at times. While the romance between them is at stake, Varun goes to Kargil war and gets captured by the Pakistani Army. Now he has to find a way back to India and his girl.
Karthi is a very good actor who can fit into any type of character. He is extremely good as Varun in Cheliyaa. His performance in the climax scene is simply superb. Aditi Rao also is a fantastic actress and very beautiful too. The chemistry between Karthi and Aditi keeps the film going. Delhi Ganesh and RJ Balaji are good in their respective roles. Most of the drama focuses on Karthi and Aditi that rest of the actors don’t get much of screen time.
Mani Ratnam’s films are technically brilliant and Cheliya isn’t different either. The film is visually stunning and the technical values are topnotch. Mani Ratnam’s mark can be seen here and there, but the director is definitely out of form as he couldn’t make it an interesting romance drama despite the intriguing setup. He clearly falls short of the mark in making a movie that could have been another Roja.
A couple of songs are good on ears and as well as on the screen. Background score is soothing and adds value to the vibrant visuals. Cinematographer Ravi Varma is the hero of this film with his mind-boggling work. Every frame looks like a painting. The movie moves at a very slow pace and the editor couldn’t do much about it. Production values are very good.
Aditi Rao Hydari
Mani Ratnam tries to make it an interesting romance drama by setting it in the Kargil war backdrop. However, Kargil war is just used as a tool to separate the couple for a few years. Besides that there isn’t much importance to the war. It is primarily a romance drama between two different personalities. Karthi is a lovable charming guy until Aditi falls for him. After that he keeps on hurting her feelings with his behavior and ideologies.
Mani Ratnam doesn’t focus on the character development and directly jumps into the story. He gives subtle hints of the past of the protagonist through dialogue. He also leaves most part of the drama behind as if he wants us to guess what might have happened. First half is passable to an extent due to the unmistakable chemistry between Karthi and Aditi.
Story moves back and forth as Karthi remembers his past while he is captured in Pakistan. Even that aspect doesn’t infuse any interest due to the poorly written scenes between the lead pair. The romance is never touching nor endearing, does it simply test our patience with confusing conversations and characterizations. It is hard to empathize with the lead role as he is stuck in Pakistan because we cannot develop an emotional connect with him.
Second half is a slog. The story refuses to move forward and Mani Ratnam had a great opportunity to make up for the loss with a thrilling climax. One would expect a thrilling climax as Karthi plans to escape from the Pakistani prison. But all we get is a sloppy action scene that seems like a joke. Everything about Cheliyaa is half baked and underdeveloped. It is just an idea made into a film without putting in efforts on the writing table. The result is a painful, boring and torturous romantic drama that will force you to walk away in the middle.