From time to time there comes a product that you have to sit up and take notice just because somebody even attempted it. Madras Café, with all its flaws, is one such movie. Ours has been a nation obsessed with Gods and saviors. Even more than the Jews, we Indians have always been looking for a savior to rescue us from the mire that is our lives. Our mythological stories are full of Gods to took human form to save mankind and our recent history is filled with people who are considered demi-Gods by their supporters. From Gandhi to Mamata, our leaders always evoke one of two reactions - total and unquestioned loyalty or complete and utter dismissal.
In such an environment, Madras Café tries to tell the story of, arguably, the most important political event of our times. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, without a doubt, changed the face of Indian politics. Shoojit Sarkar and John Abraham, producer, have to be commended for trying to tell an unbiased story on how Rajiv Gandhi came to be assassinated in a most gruesome manner.
The movie traces the story from the point of view of Bikram Singh, a RAW agent, who works undercover in Sri Lanka to undermine LTTE chief Prabhakaran and help get the peace process on track. Along the way, he is double crossed, kidnapped, lied to and loses the most cherished parts of his life. Unfortunately, John Abraham the actor does not live up to John Abraham the producer. Johns limited acting abilities mean that we are left feeling cold and unattached to the main protagonist. This is not the first time John has essayed a promising role in the most lifeless manner possible (check out No Smoking or Shootout at Wadala).
The movie is filled with bad actors essaying promising roles or good actors essaying one-dimensional roles. For all the effort, Shoojit Sarkar fails to recreate the magic of Vicky Donor. He is let down by the script and the acting skills at his disposal.
But it is not all gloomy. Instead there is a lot to recommend about the movie. For one, the photography is top-class. Shot mostly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Kamaljeet Negi does a fine job of capturing the beauty and horror that must have been Sri Lanka in the Prabhakaran era. The music by Shantanu Moitra is complementary without being intrusive to the storytelling.
Then there is the fact that this movie was actually made. This is a moment when you have to put aside your demand for the perfect movie and watch Madras Café just so you can tell Bollywood that youd prefer this brand of cinema to the Khans brand. What John Abraham needs is to build a team of good technicians and actors. If he can continue to support and make money from the kind of cinema he believes in, it would be a turning point for Bollywood.
Verdict: Must watch