My regular readers may be able to recall that some time back (on the occasion of the death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi), I had posted the review of a Hindi bestseller novel – Vardi Waala Gunda which was published first in the year 1992 and based on the assassination of our ex-premier, Rajiv Gandhi which had taken place just one year back (in 1991). Popular Hindi novelist (now Late) Ved Prakash Sharma had written it and partly due to the hot theme and its brilliant treatment and partly due to the pre-publication hype generated for it, the novel proved to be a bestseller Hindi novel in the pulp-fiction category. Though its author (Ved Prakash Sharma) lost his sheen in the field of writing over the last one decade of his life (he passed away on 17.02.2017), Vardi Waala Gunda (a goon in uniform) is still considered as one of his best works till date whose central character was a corrupt cop who masterminded the killing of the high profile politician of India who had attempted to bring about peace in the nation’s neighbourhood but lost his own life in that. On the occasion of 73rd birth anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, as my tribute to him, I am presenting the review of a Hindi movie –Madras Cafe whose theme is, quite similarly to Vardi Waala Gunda, is based on his assassination only.
I went to watch Madras Cafe (2013) with a lot of expectation when it was released because I had read a lot of positive reviews about the movie. Within no time, I was able to contrast it with the Hindi novel which had come more than two decades ago. Well, in my humble opinion, neither the highly educated filmmakers nor the sophisticated modern movie reviewers read Hindi novels, especially the pulp fiction stuff which is looked upon derogatorily. Hence I suppose that Shoojit Sircar, John Abraham and the various high profile reviewers writing reviews of this movie have not read this novel. But the quantum of similarity between the two is astonishing though the movie has been made by keeping a positive character at the nucleus of the story unlike the novel whose hero himself is actually the villain.Since I have already reviewed the novel, here I am reviewing the movie only which is a very very well made one and deserves a lot of accolades for paying attention to the fine details, the realistic settings as well as the overall realistic approach in presentation, the excellent casting of actors for different characters (following the principle of horses for courses), creating that aura on the screen to mesmerize the audience for more than two hours and above all, establishing the futility of violence in a touching manner.
Set in the late eighties and the early nineties, the story belongs to the ethnic trouble in Sri Lanka, the peace accord between the top political authorities of India and Sri Lanka, sending of IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) to Sri Lanka and finally, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi who was no longer the prime minister of India then. The story has been written by showing an Indian intelligence officer (John Abraham) at the centre of the various happenings, his pious intentions and sincere efforts for converting the dream of Rajiv Gandhi (of bringing peace to the island) into reality and most importantly, their failures. And when such things move on, double cross seems to be an unwritten rule of the game creating suspense for those who are in as well as for those who just watch.The script-writer and the director have utilized the first half for the build-up of the main theme which takes the centre-stage in the second half only. However I opine that both the halves are equally important and well-presented. It’s a brilliant blend of fact and fiction and it’s utterly difficult for a layman like me to decide as to how much is the percentage of fiction in whatever is shown on the screen. The percentage may actually be high but the filmmaker has been successful in rendering a feeling to the audience that the greater amount is that of fact only. The flawed functioning style of the Indian bureaucracy has also been exposed very well.
The director (Shoojit Sircar) has been ably supported by the action director, the art director and the cinematographer. Though the movie has not been shot in real locations, nowhere the audience feels that the scenes have been filmed in artificially made sets. The action and thrill part of the narrative is a very well executed one. Editing is crisp and maintains momentum of the narrative throughout.However, the movie has its share of flaws too. The title itself does not say anything significant. Perhaps the moviemaker could not think of a perfect title. The movie glamorizes Late Rajiv Gandhi. He was a young and different politician and he genuinely wanted to bring peace to the island nation in the neighbourhood, there can’t be two opinions about it. However it’s his hurry and strategic failure that created trouble for India in this regard, finally leading to his own end. The director has not paid any attention to this fact. Further, in the beginning the ethnic violence against the minority Tamils has been underscored but this fact has been ignored in the later reels and the Tamil militants only have been shown as the real villains. The biased approach of the Sri Lankan politicians and also the dubious role played by the Indian Tamil politicians in the happenings have been completely ignored. The hero narrates the whole story to the priest of a church and sends the relevant documents to his journalist friend at London 3 years after the killing incident, why ? The English lady journalist friend of the hero seems to be knowing just too much about the whole thing having her own widespread network which is not very convincing. When subtitles of the dialogs are given, there is no need to show the conversation between the hero and the lady journalist in such a ridiculous way that the he speaks in Hindi and she speaks completely in English. The hero also speaks in ridiculous Hinglish, inserting an unnecessarily heavy quantum of English words in his Hindi narration and talks. And it’s also quite uncalled for to give him a ramshackle get-up akin to that of a beggar when everything is over for him and he narrates the story to the priest and thereafter sends the relevant documents to the London-based lady journalist.
As said earlier, the complete supporting cast has been selected with perfection and all have performed brilliantly. Simply superb. Utterly real in looks and behaviour. I have been a great admirer of quiz-master Siddharth Basu and it’s a sheer delight to see him as an actor (the RAW chief). Nargis Fakhri (the British journalist) has improved a lot since her debut in Rockstar (2011). Almost everybody is well in place with the sole exception of Raashi Khanna in her insignificant and unidimensional role of the hero’s wife.
Now for the hero-cum-producer John Abraham. In my humble opinion, he is not a versatile actor and his range is limited to certain kinds of expressions and roles. However he has a great screen presence and a highly impressive masculine personality. Since he is quite proficient in action-oriented intense roles, this role is tailor-made for him and he has excelled like anything. We can consider this performance of his as his best till date.
There is only one song that has been kept in the movie which is a wise decision of the director. However all the soundtracks prepared by Shantanu Moitra are damn good whose lyrics are also meaningful and heart-touching. Background score is perfect to the mood of the movie.
Madras Cafe is not for the regular entertainment-seekers because this profound movie is low on entertainment quotient. It is for those who take interest in watching meaningful and realistic movies containing a great substance in the story. Despite flaws, this effort of Shoojit Sircar and his team is highly laudable. Definitely a great effort it is. Unfortunately, the problem of ethnic discrimination and consequential violence in our neighbouring country is still unresolved despite our losing billions of rupees plus the invaluable life of our young politician in our endeavour to bring about peace there. The hero finds himself as utterly disheartened in the end. And so do I.© Copyrights reserved
The link of my review of Vardi Waal Gunda is :