John Abraham produced and acted Madras Cafe had been the talk of the town much before it was released, and much of the talk arising from the sensitive and controversial theme it had.
Shoojit Sircar, who previously directed the critically acclaimed Yahaan and the over-rated Vicky Donnor helms Madras Cafe. Thankfully, Sircar handles Madras Cafe with utmost care not to overdo the war or the assassination finale. It was indeed a bold move. The movie’s first half packs a punch and a lot had been squeezed into it, be it the civil war or the politics that was in play behind all the events. And the same had been narrated via cut shots and collages. The pacing too was brisk leaving no time to take in breath, inducing a kind of grim feel consistently till the end. It essentially had that Hollywood vibe thanks to the brilliant cinematography by Kamaljeeth Negi.
The first half of the movie was concentrated on the dreary happenings of Sri Lanka and it did have a huge impact on me as a viewer though the second half was focussed more on the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination which took off some of tension that was built up in the first half. I do know that it was inevitable but much of my interests were invested on events we had not known about than a tragedy which we were familiar with.
Glad to see John Abraham playing a no-frills-attached espionage agent and felt he’d done justice to the role without the usual bells and whistles of a Bollywood hero. Total thumbs down to Nargis Farkhri. All she did was pout and brung nothing to what could have been an otherwise prominent role. Special mentions include Sidhartha Basu’s impeccably portrayed Robin Dutt aka RD and Prakash Belawadi’s Bala. Being a Mallu it’d be iniquitous if I don’t mention Dinesh Nair a multi-talented actor who played the role of Rajasekharan. Debutante Rashi Khanna makes a mark on the audience playing a charming Ruby who comes off as a bit more adept than Nargis Fakhri.
A more reminiscent comparison would be Santhosh Sivan’s Theeviravaathi: The Terrorist which managed to depict a very violent theme in a non-violent and subtle manner bringing in the same kinda grim feel throughout. While it was the terrorists inner conflicts that was shown there, here we have a look at the nuances of an agent stranded amidst personal tragedies and obligations towards his nation.
What Madras Cafe does best is the visualization of war and makes a point where its not always guns and action. There are casualties of course but apart from that there are also the dreaded memories of events leading to and following a war which forever scars a nation, a continent and the world.