Back during the interviews of the film, John Abraham had declared that Madras Cafe is a film that will make you sit back and indulge in a post film coffee table discussion. He was right. Rarely come films that demand of you to go beyond that you have seen, that make you read up on the events showcased and discuss them at length.
Lost between the text-book history and the current affairs is one event that scarred the nation and left a worldwide impact. The reason I say lost is because one always speaks of Independence, the many wars with Pakistan we have fought among various other historical events but how many times have you seen the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi being dealt with in detail?
Filmmaker Shoojit Sircar who started his filmmaking journey with Jimmy Shergill-Minissha Lamba starrer Yahaan which tackled the Kashmiri separatist movement goes down South and presents the Sri Lankan civil war, The Tamilian separatist movement lead by LTTE organization and an incident that scarred India forever.
Major Vikram Singh (John Abraham) heading RAW's covert operations lands in Sri Lanka to convince Anna Bhaskaran (Ajay Rathnam) to drop his rebellious stance against the peace accord between Sri Lanka and India. He must work with colleague Bala to get Anna Bhaskaran (Ajay Rathnam) who is the head of the rebel LTF group to accept a peaceful resolution. However, in the process Vikram unearths a deeper conspiracy against India.
If not for a producer like John Abraham, Madras Cafe, a film devoid of any potboiler parameter, wouldn't have found its way to the cinema halls in such a big way. John Abraham, the producer had already laid down the fact with Vicky Donor that he is out to make films that make a difference and he only takes his thinking forward with an intelligence cinema like Madras Cafe that expects you to buck up and smarten up.
Madras Cafe isn't a film you casually enter a cinema hall to watch. It is no Chennai Express which you can laugh off and forget the moment you are out of the cinema halls. Madras Cafe is pacy, involves historical events shown in a light you haven't seen before. There are way too many activities in the film and you cannot afford to miss even a single frame lest you want to go clueless about what happened how and when.
Filmmaker Shoojit Sircar takes complete charge of the film. He researches like a R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing) Agent himself and not just presents facts the way they have been stated out in the Jain Commission Report but weaves around a thriller that grips you from scene one.
Sircar takes a Blood Diamond and Body Of Lies kind of story-telling approach and keeps the treatment of the film pretty much like the Hollywood films. This isn't to put it in the negative light for Madras Cafe with 130 minutes is smart and slick.
The only problem in the narrative is the non linear approach which could easily be eliminated. It appears the filmmaker tries really hard to confuse the audience in a bid to add an extra thrill.
Madras Cafe gets amply aided by the pitch perfect casting and the startling backdrop. Sircar's strength comes in the smart choice he takes of roping in fresh faces for pivotal parts. So you don't see a regular Bollywoodian character actor taking up the task of playing yet another character. The names like Siddharth Basu, Prakash Belawadi, Piyush Pandey, Ajay Rathnam add the much needed realistic feel to the film.
It's either the improvement of John Abraham or the smart direction of the filmmaker that the actor appears surprisingly good in his part. Major credit goes to the character which literally appears tailor made for the superstar.
Sircar goes cliche in roping in Nargis Fakhri, may be to add face value, to the character of a foreign journalist which could well be done by anybody else and probably a better actor than her. Debutant Raashi Khanna as John's wife in the film plays a better part than the one film old Nargis.
Cinematography by Kamaljeet Negi and dialogues by Juhi Chaturvedi also deserve a mention for had it not been for the near perfect setting or the impactful dialogues the film wouldn't have made for a brilliant watch.
To sum it up, Madras Cafe is a stupendous thriller and though it slips in some parts, the film is an overall winner. Cinema like this should be encouraged!