Can a rookie stand up for an election, take on the sitting Chief Minister, and rise to be a Chief Minister herself, that too in Uttar Pradesh where the heartbeat of Indian politics lies, in her very first attempt? Well, that’s how the story of the character played by Richa Chadha unfolds in Subhash Kapoor written and directed Madam Chief Minister which unfolds well as a political drama.
I expected the two hour film, which has released in theatres, to be the journey of a young woman who rises from being an assistant librarian to the Chief Minister. However, the story goes far beyond that as this episode from the life of this character, which is an amalgamation of several real life stories that you may have heard around you, forms just first 30-40 minutes of the film. What happens post that is the core of Madam Chief Minister as it asks a pertinent question – “Does power turn you into something that you had set out to oppose at the very first place?”
This is exactly what Saurabh Shukla tries to teach as well to Richa Chadha in a set up that reminds of Nana Patekar-Tabu tale in Gulzar’s well made but pretty much ignored and forgotten Hu Tu Tu (1999). Out there a lot was said in references and poetry; here is is pretty much direct. Saurabh Shukla, playing a tailor who wants to work for the backward class, is happy to be a kingmaker instead of being a king. His mandate is simple; regardless of whoever comes in power, be it his disciple Richa Chadha or his partner from other party Shubhrajyoti Barat, every act of theirs has to be for the upliftment of the downtrodden.
So what if that means ignoring the fact that a lecherous student politician (Akshay Oberoi) has to be inducted in the ministry or doubts are cast over the continued stint of his favourite even if senior party members are against her? All of this sets the stage well for an intriguing affair that brings in quite some interesting twists, including a key character getting tonsured right in the corridors of the ministry or dozens of MLAs getting kidnapped overnight for a parade before the Governor the next morning.
The story proceeds well into the second half as well as now it is not just about winning power but retaining it, something that comes with its own challenges. In comes the character played by Manav Kaul and though there is predictability around it, the pace of the movie ensures that you still go along with it instead of feeling shortchanged. Moreover, Richa ensures that despite some seasoned actors around her, she carries the film well on her shoulders right till the end, where the finale emerges as one of the best sequences of the film.
Yes, there are a couple of places where you do feel that her loud mouthed persona goes a little out of hands and a bit more restrain would have brought in a thehrav into the proceedings. Also, a few cinematic liberties are a little too much, the most glaring one being around the lack of background check of a key character and then Narcos style ambush happening during a key government activity, something that is just way too difficult to digest. Also, there is an additional character of Richa’s cousin brother played by Nikhil Vijay which doesn’t quite hold well. In a masala outing like Mirzapur it may have worked, but not in Madam Chief Minister which is more in a realistic zone.
Nonetheless, despite these minor blemishes, what works is the fact that Subhash Kapoor keeps the first as well as the second half quite balanced, due to which the entertainment factor is consistent. You don’t feel bored, you don’t end up checking your cellphone, and unlike the OTT experiences where you may be distracted by the self inflicted pauses, as a theatrical experience it holds well.
That’s a win in itself.