Somnath Dey
Story & Screenplay

Suvendu Bhattacharjee
Story & Screenplay

Juhi Chaturvedi

Movie Review
Madras Café:Take your brain along!

Before giving a surprise hit with rollicking ‘Vicky Donor’ (2012), Shoojit Sircar had made his debut with a thriller named ‘…Yahaan’ (2005; starring Jimmy Shergill) which not many took a notice of. A nice debut, to say the least, ‘…Yahaan’ asserted that Sircar is a fine craftsman who knows his job. With his third film Madras Café he has gone back to the thriller genre and the outcome is appreciable. One hopes that the industry which, at least for the last couple of decades, hasn’t gone beyond rehashing Hollywood DVDs to produce thrillers, will welcome Sircar with open arms. 

Madras Café is based on real-life events and uses the backdrop of the LITTE movement interlinking R&AW agents, and their bosses, with region-based politics, foreign policies and global economic warfare while painting an authentic picture of the modus-operandi of an intelligence agency. The good thing is that elements like surveillance, phone-tapping, cipher decoding etcetera are not clubbed with unnecessary car-explosions and cable-supported stunts. This is where the film scores maximum points and so does John Abraham who has again invested intelligently in a fresh subject. 

The story is structured around flashbacks and opens with a bearded man (Ex-army man and R&AW agent Vikram; played by John Abraham) choosing to tell his story to a priest inside a church in Dalhousie. About three years ago he was sent to Jaffna, an island in Sri Lanka, as a part of the Indian peace force trying to reinstate democracy in the region. We see that, in Jaffna, an arms deal goes wrong followed by Vikram’s kidnapping. He is quick to realize that there is a leak in his department; incidentally, his senior. He can’t stay back in Jaffna any longer and moves to Cochin. The first half lacks a firm grip as it seems the events are put together to compensate for the lack of a single track story. The main plot, which even John’s character blurts out in the very beginning, kicks in only in the second half. This is where the film picks pace and, unexpectedly, many of the loose threads from the first half also start to join together. 

It’s found out that the radical organization LTF (modeled after LITTE) is planning to assassinate India’s ex-prime minister (imitation of the much known real life incident). Vikram is called back to solve the case and while doing his job ends up losing his wife. However, he quickly moves on to carry out his mission. Last half an hour of the film is taut and ones wishes if the entire film could have felt like this closely knit chain of events. 

Screenplay (Somnath Dey & Suvendu Bhattacharjee) is thoroughly researched and detailed. However, it could have exercised a little more economy of scenes chucking few repetitions. On few occasions, the otherwise natural dialogues (Juhi Chaturvedi); sound dreary which could have been avoided by using a bit of humor. Nargis Fakhri (Jaya) playing the gutsy journalist speaks all her lines in English and one wonders how that fits along with her comprehending what John says in Hindi. Similarly, Delhi based Vikram also speaks Tamil on a couple of occasions. Vikram’s narration, which wasn’t much needed in the first place, tries to help the narrative but does nothing more than passing information and stressing the same facts. 

Background music lifts up the film by few notches. As far as performances are concerned, this can very well be John’s best till date because the script has not forced him to do anything which he can’t pull off. 

Madras Café may not be able to find a place in your shelf but it’s a refreshing change from the ‘leave your brains at home’ routine. In case you feel that mainstream Hindi cinema can do with little smartness, watch it and support the cause. 

   Dinkar Sharma


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