Koimoi has time and again encouraged the fiesty views of our readers. While most of our guest writers take up the pen to shower love on their favorite actors, here’s a writer who was so enthralled by a recent film that he decided to passionately write about how cinema is more of an artistic celebration and not a revenue minting venture. Read on…
Let us first applaud John Abraham for producing Madras Cafe and Shoojit Sircar for directing it.
A lot has been said about the stature of Indian Cinema being too low to match the Hollywood levels and about the shit that Bollywood keeps on serving every Friday. Little do the folks understand that if they talk in terms of VFX and special effects, we cannot compete with Hollywood for a plain reason, BUDGET!!
The next thing being that the revenue that a Bollywood film earns comes from a relatively smaller market than what is available for a Hollywood film. That being said, if the argument is on the story front, I strongly support Bollywood. There are brilliant stories told every Friday but seldom do our people realize their worth. They raise hue and cry about the degrading status of the Indian Film Industry and also make Chennai Express cross Rs.200 crs. Why these dual standards? Why can’t the superstars come forward and promote Good Films? With their backing, I am sure, 100 crs plus business is anyway guaranteed. It is time for the Khans and the Kumars and the Kapoors to come forward and silence the critics.
Amongst all this, Madras Cafe comes across as a film which will silence everyone with its sincerity to showcase good cinema. There is a story writer willing to be true to the subject, a director willing to take the risk of making a commercial political thriller and a superstar producer willing to act as well as finance the project. So finally here is a movie which is about story telling and not about Math and number crunching. Madras Cafe revisits the period from 1986 to 1991 and showcases probably the darkest phase in the history of our neighbouring nation and its repercussions on our country. The movie opens with disturbing scenes of violence between the Sinhalese and the Tamils in Jaffna and the screenplay then progresses to show the inevitable, the killing of our ex-PM (Rajiv Gandhi).
The fact that Madras Cafe must have been really tough to shoot is evident, when you see the locations of the scenes and the detailing that has been put into making every scene come alive on screen. The Cinematographer has done a brilliant job. His lens captures and tells what is required. It would be unfair to divulge out the story because that is one department which is so taut and precise that it would keep you on the edge of your seats for a large part of time.
John carries the film on his shoulders and it is refreshing to see him finally act! He pulls off a stellar performance. For once, he will have your jaw drop when you see him emote during a sequence where he loses his wife! As a matter of fact John Abraham has been on record about the fact that Madras Cafe would give him some credibility as an actor. It surely will. Probably a career defining film for John.
The same cannot be said about Nargis. Though she gets to mouth her dialogues in English, she still fails miserably.
Rashi Khanna as John’s wife emotes exceptionally well and plays her part gracefully.
But what makes Madras Cafe so strong on the performance front is its supporting cast. All of them are relatively new faces (Basu, Belawadi etc) and they lend a tremendous sense of freshness to their performances. Clear and Crisp!
Sircar yet again comes up with a film that requires the audience to be mature, informed and aware. And it feels good to see such films. With footages from Nat Geo and some brilliant camera work, Sircar creates a haunting impression about the civil war in Sri Lanka, supported exceptionally well by John.
The film refrains from taking names but makes it pretty evident through situations. The 1st half is packed extremely well as it takes about 45 minutes to set up the entire premise and the rest of the run time unfolds some brilliant twists and stark truths. This movie demands your attention in every frame for the frames have so much to say.
With Yahaan, Vicky Donor and now Madras Cafe, Shoojit Sircar is really turning on the game for making smart, informative, gritty and captivating cinema and is nowhere willing to sacrifice on the concept. He masterfully directs the sequences and lets the confusion reach its peak at intermission and like a poem, the twists and the conflicts unfold themselves as the 2nd half progresses.
Madras Cafe is a brave film. Bringing political thrillers into mainstream cinema with such authenticity is a rarity. Though the film has its share of shortcomings as regards the jarring screenplay in the latter part of the 1st half but it overcomes that fault with a superbly narrated 2nd half.
The film will disturb you. The images of the civil strife in Lanka will haunt you. The emotions, though underplayed beautifully will come out as the credits start to roll and as Papon croons to Maula sun le re.
Madras Cafe opens up a disturbing chapter in the human history. It also opens up the gates for filmmakers to make films which make sense and to make films which are relevant. It opens up the gates for the filmmakers willing to tell the stories that need to be told.
Madras Cafe deserves an audience. It deserves the applause.
The film ends with Tagore’s lines (mouthed by John)…Where the head is held high…and the mind is without fear…
Madras Cafe is a thoughtful cinematic experience. Expect more such gems from Sircar!
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