Rating: 4/5 stars (Four Stars)
Star cast: John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri and Siddhartha Basu
Director: Shoojit Sircar
What’s Good: An engrossing monologue which excavates one of India’s most overbearing conspiracies left back in the dusty pages of history.
What’s Bad: There is no commercialism, which has been smartly avoided so as to not dilute the subject matter. Music, background score has been kept limited to create any unwanted flavor to the drama than the story already contains. They are not really negatives just slightly deterring for the general public.
Loo break: None
Watch or Not?: Shoojit Sircar and John Abraham have teamed up again to come up with one of India’s most bold and matured political thrillers! Designed with a deep rooted sense of urgency, the film builds an overwhelming tale around the darkest phase of the Lankan Civil War that marshal to conclude with a rushing end which we are all familiar with. In between the flashbacks and conspiracies, Madras Café is a film with a gritty, convincing and engrossing plot that will revel in its ability to leave you with an uneasy and helpless feeling!
Vikram Singh is deployed on a covert oppression to Jaffna. After India and Sri Lanka signed the peace accord in the mid 1980s, India took it as their mission to help its neighbors relieve themselves from the ethnic strife between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Hatching a plot to bring down Anna, a popular Tamil leader in the zone, Vikram begins with trying to team up with Anna’s opponents in the beginning.
Falling prey to a leak, he loses his first shot with Anna and gets kidnapped by his forces! However, now hell bent on getting Anna to bow down, he teams with Anna’s own men and manages to ambush his army. However, Anna manages to survive and returns even more powerful by eradicating Indian forces off Jaffna and Lanka.
Plotting ways to kill the former Indian Prime Minister fearing that he will return to power, the film is a tussle between the war makers to safeguard their interests! And for Vikram, it is the story about how India lost its Prime Minister in an assassination which the nation has still not forgotten!
Madras Cafe Review: Script Analysis
Recreated out of real life instances, Sircar doesn’t cheat us at any level. His story is a dramatized version of realities, with the parallels so apparent that they aren’t very difficult to decipher. There are no false jingoistic traps laid or judgment calls commanded. Luckily for the good of its audiences, the film invokes a strong sense of realism largely as the director doesn’t waste time in creating any ornate sham of filmi-ness. The script itself gives very few problems to hang around as it envelopes a rather clear cut story which is a coalescence of history and drama which is a quasi fictional account of India-Lanka Peace Accord which culminates into the death of Rajiv Gandhi.
Writers Somnath Dey and Subhendu Bhattacharya dynamically build a piquant movie which has a stirring premise. Folding in well the background of ethnic strife in Sri Lanka, the film carefully holds its ground with an antagonist whose motives are beyond power. The film’s forte is how it tells such a volatile story with utmost sensitivity without taking sides. It is pro human and definitely not anti any group, culture or leader.
The unlikely twists and pauses mounts consistently the right aura and mood of the film. Keeping it somber and dull, the film’s pace is rightly packed with thrills. In no part of the film is there a single dull moment which sags or falls loose. It has no allegations or derogatory remarks but a simplistic narration of the course of events. The film’s trajectories don’t foster any shade of righteousness and strictly refrains from evoking any wrong sentiment.
The drama doesn’t take fancy to over the top melodrama thankfully; its pace doesn’t slacken or the momentum of its happenings doesn’t veer away. Our hero is a faltering human who fails to end up saving his wife or the life of the Prime Minister who is slayed eventually. It is this realistic approach that popular cinema misses and Shoojit Sircar, along with his writers, whose toiling at assembling the film’s skeletal groundwork shows in terms of the film’s clarity, have put up a bravura show!
Madras Cafe Review: Star Performances
John Abraham as Vikram Singh topples all his previous performances. He isn’t a very flattering actor but his clever choice of role and wicked acting surely shows a remarkable improvement. He isn’t the John who couldn’t emote. He is the John who isn’t afraid to take up challenging roles and carry them out gracefully.
Nargis Fakhri with her British accent is confident. She may not be a show stealer but does her bit with élan retaining the correct persona for it.
Siddhartha Basu is quite a natural as he smoothly slips in the role of R.D. His intelligence shows in his eyes, and he manages to command respect in his character! Never stepping a wrong stone, the man should have taken up acting long back!
The supporting actors are all impressive but in the end, this film is more about its intent and plot than about its actors!
Madras Cafe Review: Direction, Editing and Music
Shoojit Sircar is back after a long hiatus since Vicky Donor. He strings into the same plot, the emotional wreckage and physical devastation of war to emphatically put forth the futility of it all. In the climax, Shoojit concludes with, “One man’s revolutionary is another one’s villain!” followed by a few stellar lines of Tagore! Truly, in the clashes of mindsets the only people who suffer are commoners who seek only peace and happiness from their lives.
As Lankan leader Anna strives to garner power and Indian Government attempts to achieve their political motive of maintaining monopoly in the subcontinent by maintaining friendly relations with Lanka to obtain access into the South East Asia, Sircar wonderfully relates the story of anarchy, bloodshed and meaningless war which continued for 27 long years killing thousands. In the end, he does squeeze out a potent message about the nugatory nightmare of the wrath of war! Shoojit intelligently executes a crisply written story which is executed breathtakingly. The editing of the film is quite well done, as the docu-drama style doesn’t stir up any boredom. Shantanu Moitra’s music is pristine and haunting as the climax wraps up with Papon crooning Maula Re.
Madras Cafe Review: The Last Word
Madras Café is a hypnotically created masterpiece which thrives in the freshness of its conception. Using history with drama to build a persuasive tapestry of enthralling action, energetic plot and skillful narration of the grim phase of Lankan War, Shoojit Sircar astonishes with this fascinating docu style dramatic movie. I am going flatly with a 4/5 this triumphed work of passionate and compelling cinema.
Madras Cafe Trailer
Madras Cafe releases on 23rd August, 2013.
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