The genre of spy thrillers, although not new for Bollywood, has been on a meteoric rise since Bollywood went global and the annual growth in business exceeding expectations nationally as well as internationally. With such growth comes the demand for global concepts and espionage dramas and thrillers seem to be the in thing—the latest concept, a trend that Bollywood has lapped as its own. Movies such as Ek Tha Tiger (Salman Khan), D Day (Rishi Kapoor), and Agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan) have successfully set up the espionage genre recently as Bollywood continues to venture into the world of spying more voraciously than ever, especially dramatizing—perhaps glamorizing—the undercover lives and activities of common people associated with espionage. Espionage dramas have received much admiration and love worldwide due to Ian Fleming’s 007 series, not exclusively but a huge contributor, and recently, the Bourne series. The Indian Film Fraternity responds to the “heroes” in James Bond and Jason Bourne, and to the perplexing enterprises of M16, CIA, and Scotland Yard through India’s Research and Analysis Wing—popularly known as R&AW, or just Raw.
Madras Café, a politically incorrect and inaccurate movie, channels the long fought and devastating Civil War between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelem (LTTE) stretching from July 1983 until the demise of the Leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran, in May 2009. Whilst the events reflecting the happenings during the Civil War, along with the strategy of international forces in support of LTTE and India’s own policies and roles in the internal matters of Sri Lanka as one superpower, not to exclude the tragic assassination of the former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi; Madras Café doesn’t reveal the exact occurrences. Yet, it attempts to tell a story of the events that preceded the assassination and highlights the Indian standpoint in the entire war from a borrowed perspective, with usages of various reflecting devices than straightforward depiction of what went on, why, and what was India’s starring role in all of the events. Despite being incorrect in many ways, Madras Café does justice to the issue—indirectly but discreetly and presents a story, much riddled and hidden, in a stunning, dramatic, and stimulating fashion; the story moving forward at a reckless pace and the events gripping attention bit by bit.
Directed by Shoojit Sircar of Vicky Donor fame, Sircar made it clear that Madras Café was more a work of fiction over a documentation of reality, but the fiction is based on real events—India’s intervention during the height of the Civil War in Sri Lanka. The LTTE chameleons into the LTF, with the role of the ferocious LTTE Leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, cloned into Anna Bhaskaran essayed brilliantly by Ajay Rathnam. The city of Jaffna becomes the focal point for all operations to take place, where Major Vikram Singh (John Abraham) finds himself amidst the dreading conspiracy heralded internally from the Indian Camp, and stuck between an internal intruder and the terrible forces of the LTF—Madras Café in a nutshell. Major Singh, finding himself in the middle of unraveling the swindle at Jaffna, and amidst the horrific conjunction of LTF that has collaborated with global forces in the elimination of the former PM for what would appear pure dirty political motives; the story not only engulfs various burning secret missions, but also showcases the dynamics behind the assassination. All of the storytelling is in a hypnotic manner, with the movie showing modern democracy and politics naked in many ways, ugly in all the ways.
The picturing of the Director’s vision, the presentation, with a dramatic flow and brilliant writing by writers Somnath Dey, Shubendu Bhattacharya, and Juhi Chaturvedi—added with realistic performances by all the cast, Madras Café is a rich movie having depth in content and flawless in movement, powerful in execution. John Abraham puts in, what is his finest performance until today, and Nargis Fakhri shows her prowess in acting, if given the appropriate role to her. The rest of the cast from Rashi Khanna (playing Ruby)—who was cute and adorable—to Prakash Belawadi (as Bala), Siddhartha Basu (as Robin Dutt), Piyush Pandey (as Cabinet Minister), and each performer in the movie delivered powerful acts—enhancing the visual quality and making the events seem realistic and something audience would care for. Most importantly, Madras Café got the emotional quotient right, as the story and the tools to take the story forward, all, ticked the right boxes—the boxes of intrigue and anticipation. Along with Shuddha Desi Romance, the movie is the best film to come out of Bollywood in 2013, and one of the finest movies in the growing genre of Indian espionage thrillers. Madras Café, where it all came to a head…
Image Credit – IBN Live, Weird Angles, Bollywood Journal