The latest trend in Bollywood is to make all genres of movies, be it masala films, mindless comedy flicks or some genuine art, serious or parallel cinema. What makes it interesting is the flicks belonging to the latter category are liked by audiences and many such films have been commercially successful at the box office. Madras Cafe, featuring John Abraham as the actor and producer and directed by Shoojit Sircar can definitely be attributed to being one. Even though, it's a political spy thriller-cum-action drama, it doesn't constitute of the typical 'commercial' elements. It can be touted as an exceptional flick!
Madras Cafe delves into actual events on a plot theory that develops into an assassination of a peace lover ex-Prime Minister. Sircar hits the right chord and brings together fact and fiction with great narrative assurance and visual panache. This movie brings home the horrors of a civil war and its outcomes.
John Abraham plays an Indian Army special officer, Vikram Singh, appointed as a RAW agent by RAW chief, Robin Dutt (Siddharth Basu) to conduct covert operations in a civil war stricken Sri Lanka of the late 80s and early 90s. He is given a three point agenda with the final motive to remove the rebel leader Anna Bhaskaran(Ajay Ratnam) from power. On John's arrival in the war struck country, he meets Jaya (Nargis Fakhri) who is a British war correspondent. Vikram reports to his superior Bala (Prakash Belawadi). He has to entice his political partner Shri (Kannan Arunachalam) to go against the former.
Sadly, things don't go as planned and what follows is Vikram's close encounter with gun-toting extremists who view themselves as revolutionaries and make headways for a dangerous conspiracy to kill an important Indian leader with a human bomb. Rashi Khanna plays Vikram's wife who struggles with her emotions and worries about Vikram.
In the first half, writers Somnath Dey and Shubendu Bhattacharya concentrate on the build-up of the story and lay out a multifaceted network of inquiry, motives and ideology. The "thriller" aspect comes in the second half with clear-cut screenplay. All those knotted ends in the beginning unravel with intriguing ease.
The first thing that you sit up and take notice about 'Madras Cafe' is it's no nonsense cinematography and is mind blowing with terrific visualisations and sound effects. The movie does not lose focus from the coarse and grim tone that it has been shot with, right from the first scene. Madras Cafe sticks to its genus and remains a political thriller throughout the film devoid of romance, item numbers, abuses and unnecessary skin show. Music by Shantanu Moitra is appealing and his unobtrusive music emphasizes the tragedy. The movie is practical to the core and is not force-filled with unnecessary romantic factor which is absolutely commendable.
The strikingly shot (Kamaljeet Negi) Madras Cafe also benefits by not opting for the usual faces to play key supporting characters. Ratnam, Arunachalam and Belwadi do a fairly credible job while Basu appears at ease in his new role. John stays low-key and proficient as Vikram. Nargis Fakhri, playing a journalist strikes the right notes. What we notice is that, while John speaks in Hindi, Nargis responds in English. Maybe she could've delivered at least one Hindi dialogue.
Rashi Khanna makes an impact in a brief but significant appearance as the army man's wife.
There are some minor flaws in the movie though. Madras Cafe starts out a bit clumsily with an inexplicably unkempt John Abraham relating shocking episodes in flashback, thereby attenuating the emotional impact of the petrifying assassination scene. Portions featuring Vikram and his wife loosen the pace. But thankfully, the movie is so well-etched and narrated, that one looks forward to seeing what happens next despite knowing the end result!
There is a lot of violence involved. So, it's best to keep your kids at home.
Madras Cafe is not a