Director: Shoojit Sircar
Cast: John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri, Siddharth Basu, Raashi Khanna, Ajay Rathnam, Piyush Pandey and Dibang
b! Says: ****
Hard-hitting and to the point, ‘Madras Cafe’ doesn’t waste any time on establishing characters. It compels you to step back and take it all in. Narrated with a gutsy screenplay and persuasive performances, it is hard to find a fault in this political thriller. Such is the simplicity and so honest is the effort, that the box-office battle seems very trivial in comparison.
An undercover RAW agent Vikram Singh (John Abraham) is sent for an operation in the Jaffna region while the Sri Lankan civil war is at its peak. While Vikram’s job is to stop Jaffna’s uncrowned leader, Anna of the LTF (Liberation of Tamils Front) from his violent activities and to get him to agree for the peace keeping forces to take over, over time he discovers that bigger conspiracies are being hatched.
‘Madras Cafe’ within minutes gets you hooked. Shoojit Sircar’s almost flawless direction gives the film a documentary-style appeal that is appropriate for the critical topic it discusses. The stunning war visuals are heart-wrenching and will refuse to leave your mind even much after the film gets over. The no-nonsense attitude is clearly reflected in the screenplay which steers clear of unnecessary songs, love stories and dramatization. Without giving away too much, a scene in which John reacts to the death of someone close to him looks painfully real. In case you were hoping for a larger than life hero or over dramatization of the life of a RAW agent ala ‘Ek Tha Tiger’, then you are in for a rude shock.
We can easily call it John Abraham’s best performance till date. The actor who is known for his dead-pan expressions and bulky body surprises us with his sincerity this time around. He looks well rehearsed and matches Shoojit Sircar’s vision with his befitting performance. Talking about precise execution, Nargis Fakhri also deserves a mention. As Jaya Sahni, an Indian born British journalist, Nargis gives us a legitimate performance. We all know of Siddharth Basu’s high Intelligence Quotient and he gets his act together for his debut role as the RAW director, Robin Dutt. He is a natural in front of the cameras and suits the part as the head of an intelligence agency.
Even with no lip-sync songs, Shantanu Moitra’s music touches a chord and beautifully compliments the visuals onscreen. However, one minor gripe with the film remains how Nargis Fakhri continues to answer questions in English when John Abraham talks to her in Hindi only. Keeping that aside, ‘Madras Cafe’ is a ball of fire. About time that a real life inspired event got a real imitation on the big screen.
Inspired by the Sri Lankan civil war, ‘Madras Cafe’ is a beautifully written and well executed rendition. A must watch!