Cheliyaa - Movie Review

Friday, April 7, 2017 - 13:15
Cheliyaa (2017)
Cast & Crew: 

Film: Cheliyaa 
Cast: Karthi, Aditi Rao Hydari, Lalitha, Rukmini Vijayakumar, Delhi Ganesh, RJ Balaji, Sivakumar Ananth, Vipin Sharma, Harish Raj, Mir Sarwar, Amritaa Singh, Dhyana Madan and others
Dialogues: Kiran
Music: A R Rehman 
Cinematography: Ravi Varman
Editing: A. Sreekar Prasad
Action: Sham Kaushal
Presents: Dil Raju
Producers: Mani Ratnam and Sirish
Written and directed by: Mani Ratnam 
Release date: April 07, 2017
CBFC Rating: U


1999. Kargil War. An IAF's fighter pilot Varun's plane collapses on the Pak soil. Pak army sends him to jail. He recalls the love of his life - Dr.Leela Abraham (Aditi Rao Hydari). She is his friend Ravi's sister and she treats him when he gets injured badly in an accident. He falls for her beauty and she also likes him. He also introduces her to his parents. He proposes her to get married but forgets to come to the registration office. He is not committed to this relationship as he has own issues to deal with. During this imprisonment in Pakistan, he aches for her and he is changed man now. Can he escape the jail and meet her who already parted ways with him few years ago? 


Mani Ratnam is considered as one of the greatest living directors in India today. He is auteur. Irrespective of hits and flops, movie lovers await for his films. Off late, he is not in great form. Thankfully, he made sort of a comeback with 'Ok Bangaram. 'Ok Bangaram' was a peppy youthful entertainer with simple storyline. Now, he has made 'Cheliyaa' starring Karthi and Aditi Rao Hydari.

Unlike 'Ok Bangaram', this is neither youthful romantic story, nor it is an engaging patriotic movie like his classic 'Roja', although it is set in the backdrop of Kashmir. The movie begins with the note of remembering our Kargil heroes and the titles roll with Kargil war going on. Later the focus shifts to the love life of hero and the lover's tiff. There is a mismatch of two themes - a troubled love story and Kargil war. The war and the Indian Air Force is mere backdrop for the romantic thread. The story of 'Cheliyaa' also has traces of Anthony Minghella's 'The English Patient (1996)'. Many scenes in the film are also like replay of Mani's old movies - Sakhi (heroine is a doctor, hero comes in search of her and finds her at a camp), Yuva (abusive relationship between Madhavan & Meera Jasmine), Roja (hero is captured by terrorists/Pak army), etc.

The striking point of 'Cheliyaa' is picture perfect frames. The stunning visuals by Ravi Varman keep us glued to the screens despite dull proceedings. The first half of the movie is slightly enjoyable due to the great cinematography, beauty of the locations, and some good romantic sequences. But the second half completely goes topsy-turvy. 

In the beginning, Mani showcases Karthi as romantic-at-heart, good human being with love for poetry, but in the second half he comes as a guy with non-committal attitude, the one who forgets about promises and as a person who has anger issues. There is no justification is given why he shouts at his family members and her suddenly? Is it because of job pressure or due to the trauma of war? We don't know. No explanation is given. And this conflict between them goes at a snail’s pace and spoils the total mood. 

By end of the climax, Karthi tells us in a monologue that he is changed guy.  But it seems that scene was included for convenience of the climax, no proper character arc is built. Moreover, the entire second half is told in sluggish way. The penultimate scenes are quite boring. Despite stunning visuals, the final impression is not positive. 

A R Rahman’s musical score is also uninteresting. The songs have not added much value to the movie. Dialogues are written badly, the poetry (translation from Tamil) is awkwardly worse, and much of the dialogue mouthed by Karthi is hard to comprehend. 

What works in the movie are terrific visuals and the lead actors' sincere effort. Karthi has already proved that he can easily switch into any kind of character. He is fitted perfectly in the role of Indian Air Force's pilot. He has suited well as a Mani Ratnam hero - both as pilot and also as a romantic person. He is extremely handsome in this film. Aditi Rao Hydari steals the show with her earnest performance. She also reminds us of Manisha Koirala in many scenes. 

RJ Balaji impresses in a small role. Delhi Ganesh as grandfather of Aditi is also good. 

On technical front, Ravi Varman is the main pillar. The visual imagery of Mani Ratnam is unique and Ravi Varman (of 'Aparachitudu' and 'Badrinath' fame) understands the director's vision to come up with best visuals. The scene that he shot in Kashmir and foreign locations are terrific. The lighting pattern is quite natural too (natural light seems to have used more). Artwork is neat. Sam Kaushals' action choreography is impressive. The production quality is excellent; the locations chosen for the film have made lot of difference. 

As writer and director Mani Ratnam is yet to come into full form. Though his imagery, his classic style of framing remains absolutely great, the cool factor in romantic sequences is missing. 

Bottom-line: 'Cheliyaa' is a mixed bag as the movie offers terrific visuals but comes as a complete bore. Beneath the lush visuals, the content is hollow. Relationship between the lead pair seems superficial. Second half has totally gone wrong. Disappointing.

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