I would have given "Madras Cafe" a miss because of my low energy level and personal problems . But then after reading my friend Ram Pratap's two line review, I decided to see the movie with my son and luckily managed the tickets . i have to first thank Ram Pratap for helping me make up my mind and then John Abraham for producing this movie . His previous two movies as producers were both Hatke types and "Madras Cafe" is no exception. But still it exceeded my expectations and surprised me with its treatment of a topical issue of our generation in a very non partisan manner through the eyes of an intelligence agent in a well knit thriller.
The achievement of the movie and its director is to present an engrossing thriller whose climax is known to everyone. The plot though claimed to be fictional borrows heavily from the incidents of the Indian involvement in the ethnic Tamil conflict in SriLanka and its fallout culminating in the assasination of the ex Indian Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The names of the protagonists and the places have all been changed but it will bring up the memories of the news paper reports which made the names and places like Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Jaffna, Karuna, Anton Balasingham, Jayawardene, Elephant pass and above all Pirabhakaran so common to our daily lives for more than two decades.
The first half of the movie is a great experience in terms of action, cimematography and locations. The scenes move fast and do not allow the viewer any opportunity to relax . The photography and the action keeps you riveted just like any A grade Hollywood production. Its so nice to see Indian movies matching upto international standards. The scenes are graphic enough to show the devastation but never lingers to show the blood and gore . the action also is more restrained to create a sense of reality around them . The locale and the people look authentic and blends with the story perfectly. All this and without even a song and dance routine .
The second half of the movie is actually better than the first half and instead of action and war scenes the story shifts well into the thriller mode where the main protagonist tries his best to avert the inevitable and fails. As expressed in the movie by the words of the RAW chief - We lost. But director Shoojit Sircar wins . Without a song or dance he has presented us a believable version of the events in a fictional format. And the movie scores in another front too. It has not tried to be jingoistic or take sides. All the parties whether India, Sri Lanka or the Tamil rebels, all have been shown without trying to create heroes or villains out of the. Why even the main character, played by John Abraham , the producer himself is not the typical hero of the Hindi movies. He is caught, he fails, he is frustrated at the end. He does not sing, does not run around the heroine, actually has no heroine worth the name. He is only a protagonist. Can you imagine this with other heroes who produce movies. I am not a fan of John Abraham and even now would say he is not a great actor. but my respect for him has increased many fold after watching this movie and I can vouch that he has some grey matter of sensibility and sense in the space between his two ears.
This movie is not about acting and actors as there are no long dialogues or stylised scenes . This is rather a simple story told in a gripping narrative with suspense holding you till the end . The perfect example of a director's movie. very rarely will director get the freedom which Sircar has got and he makes the best use of it by a disciplined effort, never going overboard with creativity or emotion. The movie is a success story for the casting, locale,screenplay, cinematography and direction. Acting , dialogues and emotion takes a back seat , very unlike a run of the mill Hindi movie. Even a major part of the dialogues are in English and lot of Tamil has been used. But it doesn't create any problems with the narrative .
I have really not found any major flaw with the movie. Some people will contend that it has glossed over facts . But that creative liberty has to be taken by a director . He has presented a thriller . And it is thrilling, no doubt about it. I will end with the review by Ram Pratap, verbatim - If 'Chennai Express' was made for those 90% idiot moviegoers, then 'Madras Cafe' is for the rest 10% intelligent audience. Go, watch it!!