Movie Review

Movie Review: Madras Cafe

Chennai Express is one of those rare movies. It is a realistic take on a very real situation. Here is what I think of the film…

Madras was renamed Chennai in 1996. Had they looked into the future, I think they might have refrained from doing so, as a movie using the latter name of the city is creating box office success like no other (200 crore in 15 days), while people who spent money to watch it are left in tears! So after the trauma I went through for paying Rs. 280 for ‘Chennai Express’, I decided to be wise. I booked the ticket of Rs. 180 (smart, right?) and watched ‘Madras Cafe’. The movie is nothing like the SRK-Deepika starrer. This is no ‘keep your brains at home’ flick. The brain that you have buried someplace after the Rs. 280 debacle requires to be put back in its intended place (your head, some might get confused), for this movie is one that requires maturity. Here is how the experience was, for me.
Director: Shoojit Sircar (plays the key role in the movie. His wonderful direction makes the seemingly serious topic exciting. Different from the usual flicks.)
Producer: John Abraham, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Ronnie Lahiri (they have the secondary key role, providing the money! They also get the profits though!)
Writers: Somnath Dey, Shubendu Bhattacharya (actually, they have the secondary key role. The script is simple and realistic.), Juhi Chaturvedi(dialogues, well written)
John (I-gym-so-much-the-muscles-on-my-face-are-as-rigid-as-my-body) Abraham as Major Vikram Singh (One expression wonder)
Nargis Fakhri as Jaya Sahni (there are those who overact, then there is Nargis, who acts? Gives John competition in the single expression department)
Rashi Khanna as Ruby Singh (she’s John’s wife in the movie. Has more than one expressions, thankfully!)
Siddharth Basu as RD, RAW official (John’s senior. He was the rare few who ‘actually acted’ in the movie.)
Ajay Rathnam as Anna Bhaskaran, leader of LTF (based on LTTE Chief Prabhakaran’s role. Plays it to perfection! Bravo.)
Prakash Balawadi as Major Singh’s superior at Jaffna (3rd person to join the ‘I actually act in the movie’ list)
Tinu Menachery as the Tamil rebel (mainly involved in killing the ex-PM. Small role with dialogues in Tamil, so not part of the list.)
Piyush Pandey as Cabinet Secretary of India (he acted. Thus, he joins the list too.)
Dibang as a former intelligence officer (who provides vital information by the end. He acts too. Count: 5)
Leena Maria Paul as a Tamil rebel (secondary role in killing of ex-PM. Not included in the list either.)
Sanjay Gurbaxani as Prime Minister of India (based on Rajiv Gandhi’s role, although the makers completely deny it, to stay away from a controversy. Nevertheless, we know what it is about, and Sanjay looks and plays his part. Joins the list too!)
Music Director: Shantanu Moitra (though there are not many songs in the movie, the soundtrack and the few songs are amazing.)
Cinematographer: Kamaljeet Negi (wonderful work)
Editing by: Chandrashekhar Prajapati (edits the movie to perfection, making it not just short but exciting!)
Studio: JA Entertainment, Rising Sun Films (blah!)
Distributor: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures (blah! blah!)
Release date: August 23, 2013
Running time: 130 minutes approx.
I do not know much of the Sri Lankan Tamil problem. However, I know enough to realise the movie is based on the topic. Kudos to the producers for making one of the first movies on the LTTE-Sri Lankan war. However, though the story is the same as the reality, the names are all fictional. Rajiv Gandhi look-alike plays the role of India’s PM but is never called by the name ‘Gandhi’. Similarly, LTTE is LTF and Prabhakaran is Anna Bhaskaran.
The movie begins with John entering a church half-drunk, looking like Tom Hank’s from ‘Cast Away’ (going by the bottle, I think he drinks Old Monk). The father (not John’s, the pastor in the church!) tells John to go away and come only if he has a confession to make. That is when John starts his story of all that transpired. He mentions that he had a chance to stop the murder of the ex-PM but fails. The flashback then begins.
We are shown the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan Buddhist Sinhalese groups on the ethnic Tamil people. This is when a leader rises, to fight against the ongoing brutality. He is Anna Bhaskaran, who leads a deadly rebellion against the Sri Lankan army and the Sinhalese. He demands for a separate state for the Tamil people and begins a guerilla war, gaining popularity among the local Tamil people. To stop the ongoing war, the Indian Government decides to intervene. The Indian PM signs a peace accord with the Sri Lankan Government and asks both sides to lay down their weapons and solve the problem amicably. However, the LTF was not party to the talks and the adamant Anna Bhaskaran refuses to stop the fighting, until all his demands are met. This results in the Indian Army getting involved in the civil war and the brutality only escalates to an all new level.
This is where John comes in. He plays a RAW agent who heads the covert operations in Jaffna. As he journeys to Sri Lanka, he meets a British Journalist Jaya Sahni (who understands Hindi perfectly but still prefers to speak accented English) and gets entangled in the ensuing politics. He finds out how there are people within the agency that provide vital information to the LFT chief and in the process comes upon a conspiracy to assassinate the former PM of India (as the PM resigns, due to the failure in Sri Lanka). What follows is how Vikram Singh and the RAW agency goes on a mission to try to stop the assassination, how the LTF usurps more power, how there is a secret nexus involved, how the assassination transpires, etc. How John thinks he and RAW have not done enough to save the ex-PM is beyond me. There was no way they could have saved him given the circumstances. You have to watch the movie to know why I’m saying this.
Madras-CafeMadras Cafe is a neutral take on the situation and that makes it extremely realistic. Though John and Nargis play spoil sport (even in this intense movie, we can’t help notice how they have just one expression) the story makes it a winner. Anna Bhaskaran reminds me of Ravana (the real demon king. Nothing to do with SRK’s ‘RaOne’ or Ratnam’s ‘Raavana’). He is the perfect example of the phrase, “Hero to one, terrorist to others.” It is interesting how a man can not just stand up against the brutality but fight back the might of two national forces (Indian and Sri Lankan) and still come out as the victor. Nargis it seems is the perfect eye candy (for women, it’s John) and her assets are clearly the focus of the few scenes she has. The rest of the cast plays their part well. Tinu Menachery, who plays the assassin, looks the part (if you see any documentary of the same, you’ll know what I’m talking about). So does everyone else, especially the PM. The direction and the screenplay are beyond expectations, making this a must watch.
The movie is not like a usual entertaining Bollywood flick. Thus, it will hardly make any box office collection (because good movies find only appreciation, not the success they deserve). After ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’, this is one movie I was greatly impressed by (though there is no comparison between the two. BMB has both wonderful acting and great storyline, this one has only the latter). Leaving aside the lead actors, everything about the movie is great. Take time out to watch this one. This was Rs. 180 well spent!
PS Not a family film. Do not take your kids along and hope it will be family enjoyment.

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