Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Thriller
Year : 2013
Running time : 2 hours 10 minutes
Director : Shoojit Sircar
Cast : John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri, Siddharta Basu, Rashi Khanna, Ajay Ratnam, Prakash Belawadi
Kid rating : PG-13
Madras Café is not a movie I would have expected John Abraham to produce, much less act in. Yes, he did produce Vicky Donor (by the same director), but Madras Café is worlds removed from Vicky Donor. It is a slow moving, serious movie, almost documentary like, on the Rajiv Gandhi assassination and the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Shoojit Sircar experiments with this genre again (after Yahaan) and does good, not quite as well as with Vicky Donor, but well enough.
Major Vikram Singh (Abraham), an espionage/intelligence expert is deployed in Sri Lanka with the Indian Peace Keeping Force to make sure that elections take place smoothly and the Indian Prime Minister can save face. After a few mishaps Vikram realizes that there is a mole in his organization, and he can trust no one, not even his immediate superior Bala (Prakash Belawadi). He promises the folks in Delhi that he will solve this problem his own way, and gleans useful information. His efforts though, may be much too late.
The film feels like a procedural. There is action and it is eventful but the narrative does not flow very well. John is much improved in his acting, but he is far from stellar. He does appear to be less of a hulking bear, having slimmed down and toned the bulging muscles. Nargis Fakhri is international correspondent Jaya Sahni and does what she can with the ill-defined character. We don’t know exactly for who she works or what she does; she is just there to give enigmatic answers to Vikram’s pointed questions. Her character speaks only in English. So John speaks to her in Hindi and she replies back in English, which reminds me of my kids; speak to them in Hindi and they reply back in English.
Former quizmaster Sidhharata Basu has a major role as senior RAW officer Robin Dutt – Robin is the one who pulls Vikram into the operation. Basu, minus his hair, and much aged since you last saw him on television, does very well in this role and manages to sound authoritative and strong. Rashi Khanna plays Vikram’s wife, who waits for him in India, and portrays the worry of an army wife very well, although she seemed very young for the role of Abraham’s wife.
The film is narrated to us via a flashback. At the beginning of the film Vikram is morose and sunk into drunken stupor. He recounts his tale to a church priest, when the priest enquires about his sad state. Vikram seems much anguished at losing his Prime Minister (who appears to Rajiv Gandhi although he isn’t named in the film) which baffled me a little; if he had been anguished at the failure of the mission, it would have been understandable. Vikram’s character is not seen hero-worshipping the PM either so his anguish at his loss seemed a little odd – I’m chalking this one up to poor character development.
The title of the film comes from the cafe that the Sri Lankan leaders and their international helpers meet at; very vague! Madras Cafe is a decent film; it is not spectacular, nor is it the “gripping” espionage thriller I see it being touted as. It is a little choppy, some things in the film lack logic and development, but overall it is worth watching.
Kidwise : Scenes of violence, death and destruction may not be suitable for kids. Older kids will probably understand the dialog heavy narrative; the younger ones might be bored.