Katru Veliyidai - A Tale of abusive love
This is not a review of the movie. This is just my interpretation of the movie.
Kaatru Veliyidai had huge expectations from the Mani Ratnam fans. He is a genius who knows cinema like the back of his hand. He is always ahead of his times. He is a romantic. He is a positive thinker. But he also has the ability to call a spade a spade.
There are so many views, reviews and heartbreaks of people who cannot understand the movie. Also there a few who said this is intense love, a different kind of love, a girls point of view, complicated love. As usual Maniratnam left things to viewer's interpretation. But beneath all the layers he added to the movie is the truth, his genius.
This is a relationship between the malignant narcissist and an empath.
This takes to my own experience of watching his movies like 'Alaipayuthe' and 'Dil Se'. In my teens my interpretation of the movies was that of ideal romance. But as you grow up and you watch the movies again you start realizing the character flaws and understand why the character did what they did or you resent what they did and you see the movie in a totally different light. That is exactly what he does. He just writes stories without justifying anything or anyone. He shows different perspectives of the relationship and lets you make your own interpretations. It's more like recording the facts in the best possible way he can.
Now coming to his latest release to understand what he tries to portray in 'Kaatru veliyidai' we need to first understand who a narcissist is and who an empath is. It is the most confusing and toxic relationship that can exist.
To start with ManiRatnam usually says the story of the movie in his first scene, generally when the characters meet for the first time. Here it is an accident.
She is a doctor who cares - An empath. He is broken psychologically - a narcissist. She tries to fix him and heal his wounds (ends up doing it all through her life)
You can read in depth about the characteristics of a narcissist(women too can be a narcissist) and their relationship patterns here and here.
I will just give a overview here.
They usually have a abused childhood environment(but all abused children need not grow up to be a narcissist). If it stems from the father abusing the mother, they become over protective about the mother. (Which you can see in the conversation they have in the hospital in the movie)
Main characteristic of a narcissist is the sense of entitlement where they start believing that the person they are in the relationship with is the extension of them. They overstep the boundaries. In the movie, his entitlement is shown in two scenes where he flashes her off to his friends and the place where he says he will love her even if she does not love him back.
Stages of relationship:
They can do things that will make you fall flat on your face for them. In the movie he takes her on a private plane ride, Tangos with her, woos her with video of him singing with his friends, involves her friends(Nidhi played by Rukmani), sends her flowers, recites poems with such passion.
The next stage is mirroring. The love bombing stage makes you believe them and open up to them. They let you talk about your desires, needs and the innermost fears. You believe they get you, understand you. They even say they wanted an exact partner like you. They mirror all the feelings. Only that it is not true and they ll see your opening up as a weakness and start hitting right where it hurts later in the relationship. In the movie, she shares about how her brother wrote about him to her and that she has a crush on him since her school days. How he sees it is that she is naive enough to do that and that she can easily be hooked in the relationship.
The next stage is projecting their feelings into the other person because they cannot handle their feelings. If they feel insecure they say you are insecure. If they forget something they say you are forgetful. In the movie, the scene where he says you don't want to talk to me and run away from the problem is actually that where he is the one who wants to run away but blames her instead.
Gaslighting is when they create their own reality and downright deny yours. Saying things like 'you are imagining things','You are paranoid' etc is ways of gaslighting. The person getting gaslighted gets very confused as to if they really are imagining things when it would have already happened. Here when she confronts him about how he is walking all over her he vehemently denies it.
Narcissist thrive on drama. Even when there is no problem they love creating problems. In the movie, he gets very intense wherever possible creating drama. He is the one who suggest marriage and he is the one who stands her up.
6) Victim blaming:
They constantly blame you for everything that goes wrong or doesnt go wrong in the relationship. So when she walks off he says you are the one walking away without talking. When confronting her parents he starts blaming them for all the accusations he THINKS they accused him of not giving them a chance to speak.
7) Manipulation and lying:
Their actions will be very different from their words. He wants to marry her immediately but instead ends up standing her up. In the very first plane ride and the date they have instead of telling her how good he feels, he says it's not going to be a good relationship and that he is scared that he is falling for her leaving her even more confused. She panics and doesn't want to let him go and that is why she goes to meet him at his camp. Even when he shouts at her or abuses her, the next day he comes and sings at her doorsteps instead of apologizing for his behavior deflecting the whole issue. When she asks if he wants to keep the baby or not he talks about himself and his feelings and totally ignores her feelings and her wants. Even when he says a girl is different from a guy it is his manipulation to thwart her self esteem.
Bottom-line - they always keep their victims in a confused state so they can never make a clear decision.Read about it here
Now coming to the empath.
One thing we overlook when we look at the abuse victim is they don't want to believe they are in a abusive relationship until they get really deep in a relationship. They go through the five stages of grief. They have to get to the acceptance stage and get out and objectively see the relationship to make sense of it, even strong and independent woman. You will know why once you watch this video. It's a TED talk of a abuse victim from an Ivy League University.
Study says on an average women go back to their abusive partners atleast 5 times before they get out of the relationship. By the time the damage is already done. They are affected mentally and physically. They are shrouded in self doubt and low self esteem. They need professional help to get out of it. Especially the narcissistic abuse.
An empath wants to fix things. Anybody would think if they can explain a point of view or take a stand the other person will understand or will at least say that they don't get the point of view.
In the movie, the first time he tries to dominate her in the snowstorm, she talks to him saying she doesn't like guys who dominate girls and there is a better way of saying it. He says he is sorry and he understands(mirroring) but he doesn't. She believes him and he keeps doing it in the relationship like a loop.
This brings us to the climax of the movie. I have to admit even I was let down when walking out of the theater. The director got the narcissistic personality to the dot but he tried to romanticize it and simplify it and justify it. But when I thought deeper I could see why he did what he did. He did not try to justify anything. He is just calling a spade a spade. The character would have done that. She still did not come to terms with the fact that he cannot change and the empath in her believes he would and wants to fix him badly. She still did not come to her acceptance stage. If you look carefully, she actually did not leave him. It was the situation that separated them. She says she is leaving him but he asks for another chance which she might have given if he had returned from that flight.
There is also a cycle of abuse. Read more about it here
Abusers usually come pleading that they changed saying all the right things again(Inba in 'Ayudha Ezhuthu') but goes right back to where it started. The period immediately after getting them back is called honeymoon phase. Even in the movie there is NO confrontation of their real issues just his so called change of heart. If there is one thing we can trust in a narcissist is that they cannot be trusted.
But the movie would have been perfect if the director had left it at the place where the hero says all he wants is just to catch a glimpse of her. Because girls in abusive relationship needs to understand that abuse is NOT love.
But the real success of the director is making people talk about her bad decision to go back, by actually making her go back. If we put ourselves in that situation in real life am sure almost ninety percent of us will advise the girl to go back to the relationship and put the past behind her as he is a changed man not even thinking for a second what actually happened between them and what the real issue is. If the ending was any different we would have seen thousand articles by now as to how girls these days are selfish and unforgiving even when guy "steps down" and comes back for her. Not sure if it is intentional or unintentional reverse psychology worked.
He made us think. He made us debate. He made us come to the right conclusion.