For people who have to watch movies every week, good, bad or ugly, it is great respite when one pops up from the cesspool of fluff, glitz and more fluff that makes you sit back and go –‘Wow, that was interesting!’ Madras Cafe is it. For now.
After the god awful Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobara, Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Cafe comes across as the perfect solution to the problem called ‘What the hell is Bollywood upto!?’ It is gritty, it is real and the best part about the movie is that Sircar doesn’t try to take sides. Good and evil aren’t that easy to demarcate and Sircar plays it smart.
Vikram Singh (John Abraham) is an army officer who is sent to northern Sri Lanka on an undercover mission in the early 1990s after the pullout of the Indian forces from the island. He is assigned to break through the rebel groups that are refusing to follow the peace mandate. Use your brains, not muscles, says the RAW chief (Siddharth Basu).
In his journey he comes across war journalist Jaya (Nargis Fakhri) who, as is the case with most journalists, is completely obsessed with her truth-search than her safety in the war ravaged scenery. As the story goes, internal security breaches and treachery pits Vikram with his worst nightmares in the Sri Lankan terrains, as beautiful as they are dangerous (though the movie is not shot in Sri Lanka).
To understand Madras Cafe, one would need to know of Sri Lanka’s violent history, its civil wars, the LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (called LTF in the movie) and the subsequent assassination of the Indian prime minister (who is not named). But then just like the face of the American president in most Hollywood movies that we never get to see, everyone pretty much gets the drift who the person is supposed to be.
Sircar treads expertly between history of the late 80s and early 90s and mingles it well with his fiction to create Madras Cafe. A great script by writers Somnath Dey and Shubendu Bhattacharya, some very crisp dialogues and incredible cinematography make Madras Cafe a must watch.
The movie also has a brilliant musical score.
After a tonne of duds, John holds his own in the movie and his stoic, underplayed character adds tragedy to the plot. His restraint, his dialogue delivery and his histrionics all fall in perfect tandem. Fakhri is refreshing and thankfully she doesn’t speak Hindi, but then she doesn’t add much to the character. Newcomer Rashi Khanna hardly gets a scope to prove her mettle. Siddharth Basu is perfectly cold and curt as his role demands.
Will the film make Rs 100 crore? We aren’t sure – but don’t miss this one.