Madras Cafe Reviews
Madras Cafe primarily deals with LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) during the mid 1980s, followed by the assassination of our late Prime Minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi at the onset of 1990s. However, the movie does not claim to be a celluloid presentation of the same. Throughout the movie, the rebel group is referred to as LTF.
The movie is kind of well made. Scenes are beautifully derived out of approximately thirty years old photographs of evacuation and massacre that took place in the Sri Lankan regions that were infested with the rebel groups - both Tamil and Sri Lankan. This able derivation does remind you of the international movie Frida (Salma Hayak, Alfred Molina). Therein too scenes are beautifully derived out of paintings done by Frida Khalo.
Most of the cine goers of today were either not born or were very young during the mid 1980s. And thus, the movie does create the required awareness. The producer-director duo, John Abraham and Shoojit Sircar did a fantastic job with their debut film 'Vicky Donor' and they continue to create the same magic with 'Madras Café', in spite of the two movies being as contrasting as chalk and cheese. Shoojit has intelligently played upon the strengths of John and the result is good. Also, hats off to the makers for refraining from showing unnecessary gore, death and item numbers. Please note that, the Sri Lankan Civil War killed an estimated 80,000-100,000 people between 1982 and 2009.
However, the problem lies in the style of movie narration. Most of the hindi speaking audience is not well informed about the ongoings of the southern region, nor do they understand an iota of any of the southern languages, or the local culture that prevails there. Madras Cafe deals with a complex subject as it entails - the Indian PM and his Cabinet, Indian Military and Intelligence, Rebel Forces in Sri Lanka - both the Tamil and the Sri Lankan, Sri Lankan Army, Media and Armament Suppliers from abroad. And then, there are possibilities of leaks in all the organizations. Each leading character is prone to have a personal motive along with the political motive. Now, such a complex tale requires a lot of precision and clarity in its method of story telling. In the absence of which, you are very likely to get confused, unless you are an avid reader and movie enthusiast of international political thrillers. The aforementioned confusion very much prevails in the first half of 'Madras Cafe'.
During the climax of the movie, you make an interesting observation. The climax deals with the assassination of the ex Indian PM by a human bomb (South Indian lady). Normally, during such scenes, you pray till the last second, to call off the fast approaching calamity as you simply don't want it to happen. Till the last second, you pray for the hero to come and save the day for everyone. But, here, you actually want to see it all happen! You want the black day in the history of Indian politics to be re-created right in front of your eyes, as you were very young and confused when this event actually took place!
Actingwise, all are OK. Within his range, John is wisely experimenting with his roles, and he is doing a good job out of it. It is a pleasant surprise to see the popular Indian television producer-director and quiz show host, Siddhartha Basu perform well. Ajay Rathnam as 'Prabhakaran' looks effective. Special accolades for Prakash Belawadi for playing the drunken and shrewd south Indian official in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. His facial structure resembles that of the legendary musician A.R. Rahman. Nargis Fakhri plays the role of a hard core British journalist. Her naturally accentuated English has suited the role perfectly. Also, she has well adopted the cold demeanor required for such a role.
The dramatized version of Indo-Lankan account culminating the assassination of ex-PM (Rajiv Gandhi) is spoken from the point of a RAW Agent who defends political killings at the same time accepts the flaw in his own system leading to the global warfare and carnage. This espionage thriller lacks energy as well as facts but doesn't take any judgmental stand
Mr. Perfect built-John's attempt to underplay (in the sense being himself) made him likable,Nargis the British journalist with American accent survives. Ajay playing the main character Anna fails deliberately with his expression missing the natural charm and characteristic smile of Velu Prabhakaran but it is Siddhartha Basu and Prakash who excel making a stand-out appearance. Dibang plays the best cameo in his own reporting style.
Madras café doesn't serves the original "filter kaapi" but the instant decaffeinated version is riveting and engaging;deserves a watch.
The film opens in the 1990s. LTF (Liberation Tamil Front) is battling the Sri Lankan government to get a separate state for the Tamil minority of the nation. The conflict has reached to a critical point with increasing number of casualties. This issue has gained international attention and as an influential neighbor, India comes in as a mediator to talk both parties to amend peace. But when the LTF rejects all kind of peace proposals from India, the only option for the Indian government is to operate covert missions and take down the leader of LTF.
In comes Major Vikram (John Abraham), the right man for the right job. He's recruited by RAW and is assigned the responsibility to head all undercover missions and bring an end to the guerrilla movement. As the story unfolds, Vikram delves deeper into conspiracies and double-crossings that test him both physically and psychologically.
From the beginning, the film carries a tensed tone. The opening minutes of the film presents brutal images of war and the outcry of the innocents are hauntingly filmed. It is perhaps the strength of the screenplay that keeps the story unpredictable, even though we are aware about the assassination plot upfront. Each sequence throws Major Vikram into uncharted territories as we witness him whirling into uncertainty and suspicions.
As a political thriller, Madras Café is fast paced and demands sincere attention from its audience. The only glitch is that it tries to incorporate too much material at once and races its way till the end. Also, few scenes, the ones with the officers talking in their own lingos, are completely exposition heavy and confusing. However, even with a politically incorrect plot, Madras Café is believable and it leaves behind a social commentary on the devastating consequences of war.