There's one scene in the movie Kaatru Veliyidai where Dr.Nidhi and Dr.Illyaas are in conversation and it translates to "VC is all about VC". That's pretty much the centrepiece of this movie.
VC is an airforce pilot who only cares about what he wants to do in his life. He occupies higher ground and he is always looking down at you, even when he is in love. Every time he smiles, you can see he exudes pride and arrogance. He feels superior, compares himself to God, perhaps even mightier and says that he will kill. You know the term "airs and graces" (the affectation of superiority). That's the "Kaatru" in this movie.
Of course, when there is a movie about someone at the border, there has to be drills and war. With war comes capture and then the whole drama of planning to escape and doing it. Mani Ratnam brings back a bit of Roja here, but leaves the patriotism out for a bit and takes the journey of love. This entire sequence of VC being in Pakistan and escaping to India through Afghanistan introduces us to his life at a slow and steady pace.
Leela has heard enough about VC for years. She grew up listening to stories about this individual who is perhaps compared to a superhuman (in the eyes of her brother). She is besotted. The job in Kashmir is only a reason.
We all say "opposites attract". This is not the storyline here. This is the story of a girl who is fascinated about a guy, gets to meet him in person and is faced with some serious questions, perhaps a reality check.
Leela is already in love. And VC is just getting started but like I said in the beginning, "VC only likes VC". We get many visions of this during the movie - the registrar office, the single malt challenge, Leela's opinion, pregnancy.. there's plenty. So he finds it difficult to isolate himself from himself. He is caught for his actions. Actions that would have been encouraged and found very normal among a group of alpha males.
The dysfunctional family is a distraction. Yes, there is a bit of affirmation about VC's character when we get a glimpse of his family but its not important. And merged into that family sequence is a song with a wedding and a lot of colour powder which looked good on screen but made no sense. I haven't been to any wedding where one of the events is like Holi.
When two headstrong individuals meet, there's bound to be a bit of an explosion. VC is controlling but Leela stands her ground. And that's where Mani Ratnam excels. He brings out shades of his women characters from his previous works. He gives them space. He lets them fall madly in love but not lose self respect. Leela may look vulnerable but her displeasure at numerous instances shows that she cannot be taken lightly. Her disapproval of VC, choosing to stand by her decisions, and still being honestly in love with VC is what breaks VC.
Kaatru Veliyidai is not a Breezy Expanse (as suggested by Wikipedia). Its the air of superiority slowly leaving VC after numerous rough patches in his life and how he finds his feet on the ground. Its one man's journey through solitude to find his true calling - a submission to love.