Madras Cafe - Review
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After two weeks of typical masala fare, anything "different" is more than welcome. And that's exactly what Madras Cafe is - different - something that hasn't been tried too often in India; a real-life incident from recent history fictionalised but put forth with as much realism as is possible; the politics behind the incident is deciphered to some extent. For that I admire the makers for investing the time, money and talent in this project. Yet, ultimately as a film, Madras Cafe's narration seemed like I was narrating a horrifying news item to my kids - simplified; episodic; brought down to their level; without getting into too much detail yet pointing out the necessary elements.
In its treatment, Madras Cafe reminds you of the numerous political thrillers from Hollywood which are very well-executed even if pulsing with drama. It keeps you engaged, has a texture that it maintains beautifully throughout the film, and of course, has its share of loopholes. It assumes a high regard for a certain position - in this case, it substitutes the President of the United States of America with the ex-Prime Minister of India. His importance and stake in the scheme of things is a given.
There are a few other things that worked against the drama though. For example, at the very outset you know the outcome of the film. There is nothing to look forward to in terms of turn of events, there is nothing to hope against hope for. I couldn't help but wonder what if the film hadn't opened with Vikram's (John Abraham) take on things. I wonder if the build up to the same event would've been different, I wonder if there would've been a better connect with the characters.
Here you have someone you know nothing about in remorse about some deadly political event he was a part of. You are given a bit of his backstory but other than that you have nothing than your nationalism to connect to the happenings. The moment Jaya (Nargis Fakhri) makes a pretentious comment about anti-nationalism, you disconnect from her. And this is one of her first few lines in the film. Not that she has much to do later in the film, yet I was constantly looking for some way to be more involved.
The first half of the film is narrated with fervor and is completely engrossing. The many events and characters keep you on your toes. The brief background of the situation that was steaming in Sri Lanka and the ethnic war was perfect both as a quick revision to those of us who knew of it and an introduction to those who didn't. Like I mentioned earlier, motivations and implications are explained efficiently.
You are taken aback by the realism when you realise how overt a covert operation really is. It's not difficult to believe that that's how things must be in real life. So real that you forget it is John Abraham playing the role of secret agent, Vikram. This is by far his best performance. In addition, once you've walked out of the theater, you have to marvel at his gutsy decision of producing a film of this nature - this film is as devoid of masala as it gets.
I am sure, the film had a number of things that aren't authentic but the dangerous situations in which our agents operate just glares at you. At the same time, you wonder if one agent's life is really considered precious enough for the entire R&AW to put its men at stake.
Moreover, later, the pace slackens off in the second half where Madras Cafe tries to delve into the emotions of the people who you aren't connected with. I don't have so much of a problem with slow-paced films as I have with inconsistency in the pace. It's like you have to apply a sudden brake when you are driving at top speed. For example, while you have a person kidnapped and released within five minutes, the methodology of decoding hidden messages is painstakingly and childishly described later in the film.
Also, Madras Cafe tries to bring in the sentiments of the terrorists a little too late in the film, especially considering the film is very clear about where it stands on the issue. A one-liner takeaway at the end of the film only amplifies the fact that not enough time was spent on the other side. I think it is brilliant that a filmmaker/writer picks a side and sticks to it. Then, why the need to show the other side?
On the other hand, I loved the other contrast that director Shoojit Sircar brings out. Every once in a while, in this place full of violence and turmoil you see a peaceful monk walk through as if he were in a monastery. Also, the contrast of the monstrosity of the terrorists/rebels agains the beautiful landscapes of Sri Lanka are captured beautifully by cinematographer Kamaljeet Negi.
So, here we are, some things brilliant, others not so much. A film that insists on not naming names but is about the events that build up to the assassination of an ex-Prime minister of India in 1991 and not to mention releases in the week of Rajiv Gandhi's birthday. Nevertheless, a film I'm glad was made, even if there were things I didn't quite like. A film which I hope you will watch, even if you don't rush to the theaters. A film that makes me wonder about its timing, given the current political climate of the country.
- meeta, a part of the audience
- Violence: Lots and lots.
- Language: Clean.
- Nudity & Sexual content: One kiss and a very brief making out scene.
- Concept: The events that build up to the assassination of an ex-Prime minister of India in 1991.
- General Look and Feel: A dated, grim texture that works wonderfully for the serious theme.
Madras Cafe - Movie Details
- Official Sites: Website Facebook Twitter YouTube Wikipedia IMDB
- Banner: J.A. Entertainment, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Rising Suns Films Pvt Ltd
- Producer: John Abraham, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Ronnie Lahiri
- Director: Shoojit Sircar
- Lead Cast: John Abraham
- Supporting Cast: Rashi Khanna, Sheetal Malhar, Leena Maria, Nargis Fakhri, Siddhartha Basu
- Screenplay: Shubendu Bhattacharya, Somnath Dey
- Dialogues: Juhi Chaturvedi
- Cinematography: Kamaljeet Negi
- Editor: Chandrashekhar Prajapati
- Background Score: Shantanu Moitra
- Action Choreography: Manohar Verma
- Music Director: Shantanu Moitra
- Lyrics: Manoj Tapadia, Ali Hayat Rizvi, Zeb
- Costume Designer: Veera Kapur
- Facebook Page: Link
- Running time: 130 minutes
- Reviewer: meeta
- Language: Hindi
- Country: India
- Genres: Action, Based on true life story, History, Politics, Social, Terrorism, War
Madras Cafe - Trailer
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