Planet Bollywood
Madras Cafe
Producer: Ronnie Lahiri, John Abraham, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures
Director: Shoojit Sircar
Starring: John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri, Raashi Khanna, Siddhartha Basu, Prakash Belawadi, Ajay Ratnam
Music: Shantanu Moitra
Lyrics: Manoj Tapadia, Ali Hayat Rizvi, Zeb
Genre: Thriller
Recommended Audience: General
Film Released on: 23 August 2013
Reviewed by: Stutee Ghosh  - Rating: 8.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 viewers)
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Madras Café will make you sit up and take notice! For one it has a taut screenplay that is NOT interrupted by songs. The hero does NOT avert the tragedy. And a good looking boy and girl are NOT in love, they are not even “dost”… they are simply thorough professionals. Adorned by such precious characteristics Madras Cafe is a gem.

Friends and cinema lovers - After having banished your brain for the likes of Chennai Express and Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaraa its time to own up your grey matter and walk right into the theaters for Shoojit Sarkar’s Madras Cafe. It is brewing with the right doze of thrill and pace fragranced with some truly riveting performances. Set in the late 80’s and early 90’s it documents the civil war in Sri Lanka, the brutal guerrilla warfare between the government and the ethnic Tamilian tribe finally leading up to the Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Madras Café is a war film and its hero a RAW agent. While the former is a rare breed in our indigenous cinematic milieu the latter is generally an obnoxiously crazy stuntman calling to mind the likes of Ek Tha Tiger and Agent Vinod. Take a deep breath and relax because this film boasts of the infectious urgency of Zero Dark Thirty and a non- James Bond-ish Raw agent. John Abraham as Vikram Singh who is sent to carry out covert operations in Jaffna is a very real man with some very real feelings. He doesn’t fly from buildings, is vulnerable and tries his earnest best to save our “ex PM” from being assassinated.

So genuine is John’s desperation that while we know exactly how it will all end we still at one point cling on trustingly and feverishly to Vikram Singh’s bleak hope of everything falling into place just in time. Scriptwriters Somnath Dey and Shubhendu Bhattacharya have to be applauded for weaving together such a beautiful tapestry where the threadbare facts we know are wrapped up in multitudinous political intrigues and real time war raucous.

The first half of Madras Cafe is delightfully engaging; thanks to director Shoojit Sarkar. We know it all and yet as one plot after another unfolds we sit tight hungry for not just more intricate screenplay but also mesmerizing cinematography by Kamaljeet Negi. Editor Chandrashekher Prajapati keeps the pace crisp and Shantanu Moitra’s background score makes every scene come alive. Rashi Khanna marks her debut with a small but significant role playing John’s wife and she does a fine job of it. Duck-lipped Nargis Fakhri is made to look believable and tolerable something that even Imtiaz Ali couldn’t manage in Rockstar. Playing a journalist based out of London her accented English and bee-stung lips all seem tolerable. Prakash Belawade as John’s on field boss and Siddharth Basu as the RAW head does a fabulous job.

Madras Café walks a tight rope but does so gracefully. The LTTE is referred to as LTF, headed by Anna (Ajay Rantham) playing Prabhakaran. While the film doesn’t openly blame any one side it has characters mouthing dialogues such as "har kisika apna sach hota hai" and “one man’s revolutionary is another man’s terrorist” thus conveying the blurring lines and how the innocent invariably pay a price in the absence of any peaceful political solution. The film’s sole focus is the assassination that we experience through the eyes of agent Vikram Singh accompanied by generous dosage of Machiavellian maneuvering, Secret Service spying, coding and decoding of messages and the last minute adrenaline rush. The only reason the film falls a notch short of perfect is that while the buildup is brilliant with the music reaching its crescendo the climax is in comparison quite flat. Notwithstanding the inevitability of the end if only it had been spiced up with some more intrigue and thought provoking data the film would have stayed with us longer.

Still Madras Café is a treat without the generally accompanying melodrama and high decibel levels. There is pain, there is brutality and there are some superb performances but everything understated and real. Go for it knowing full well its worth your time and money !

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