Madras Cafe

madras_cafe_poster

Madras Cafe
Release date: August 23, 2013
Directed by: Shoojit Sircar
Cast: John Abraham, Rashi Khanna, Nargis Fakhri, Siddharth Basu, Prakash Belawadi, Piyush Pandey, Dibang, Ajay Rathnam, Agnello Dias, Leena Maria Paul

First off, on a personal note, I managed to watch Chennai Express (August 8) and Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara (August 16) but owing to connectivity/system issues I couldn’t post complete reviews here. None of it was intentional, trust me I’d have so loved to bash OUATIMD.

The review for Madras Cafe starts here.

Shoojit Sircar’s ambitious docudrama on India’s efforts in Sri Lanka to maintain peace and the strong reactions of the Sri Lankan rebel forces borders more on factual detailing in a slightly fictitious background. Yes, it does takes guts to make a film on real-life incidents in our highly volatile country, but guts don’t necessarily guarantee a good product.

Major Vikram Singh (John Abraham) is an Indian intelligence officer dispatched to Sri Lanka to head Research And Analysis Wing’s covert operations. With the issues that a serviceman has to face in his marital affairs owing to long periods of separation, he arrives in the conflict-hit area of Jaffna. In a cliched laced encounter with Jaya (Nargis Fakhri), Vikram establishes a clunky relationship with her. She is an international journalist out to cover the civil war.

RD (Siddharth Basu) is Singh’s supportive superior operating from India and Bala (Prakash Belawadi) is the shady head of intelligence in Sri Lanka who likes to have his way. Confronted by tricky political decisions and life-endangering predicaments, Vikram is forced to change his approach towards resolving matters. As India’s interference grows in the rebellion army’s actions, an assassination conspiracy is hatched and the impending fate is inevitable.

it is the same path that the makers opt for in the film’s third act which makes for great viewing. A dark end in a culturally and politically neutral narrative is rare to come across, it’s the hesitation in going all the way with using authentic names for historical figures’ that left this viewer with a sour aftertaste. I know this India, where people are increasingly getting offended at the slightest of display of opinions even though they are increasingly getting offensive in public discourse. Yes, this calls for another blog post at another time but I just feel shortchanged a bit. And yes, it was somewhat compensated by the inclusion of Tagore’s “Where the mind is without fear” at the end.

The period setups may not be exactly realistic, yet the performances of the actors are extremely sharp and nuanced. Siddharth Basu in his first outing as an actor keeps you engaged with his confidence and poise, Prakash Belwadi is perhaps the star here. He delves into the aggressive body language and delivers very well. Abraham underplays and Rashi Khanna as his wife Ruby is competent. A gaffe that could potentially lead to disbelief arising in believable situations is that everyone talks in Hindi, even the Sri Lankan biggies, but Nargis Fakhri’s character doesn’t. Intentional or forced, hard to comprehend.

At the crux of it all, Madras Cafe is particularly good for a cautious espionage-thriller. The finale is purely brilliant and simply boosts the film’s flaws convincingly.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

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