Movie Review: Madras Cafe
Cast: John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri, Prakash Belawade, Siddhartha Basu, Ajay Rathnam, Rashi Khanna
Director: Shoojit Sircar
The Indian Express rating: ***
The difficulties of attempting a true-blue Bollywood political thriller are evident in Madras Cafe. Director Shoojit Sircar places his film at the height of the civil war in Sri Lanka in the late \'80s and early \'90s, and it culminates in the assassination of an Indian political figure who closely resembles Rajiv Gandhi, but he (Sircar) is clearly constrained in naming names.
Yes, Sri Lanka is Sri Lanka, and Jaffna is Jaffna, but too often, the characters in the film call it, awkwardly, ‘the island’. Not once is Rajiv Gandhi named: the actor who plays him is a look-alike, but he is consistently referred to as the ‘ex-Prime Minister’. Rebel force LTTE, which spearheaded the demand for a ‘separate Tamil homeland (Eelam)’ is called LTF in Madras Cafe. And LTTE chief Prabhakaran, the man behind Rajiv’s assassination, becomes Anna (Rathnam).
Still, props to Sircar for pulling off, more or less, an I-spy fast-paced saga which has resonance. John Abraham plays a fictional army officer suborned by RAW, who is sent off to Jaffna for a covert operation. Those with long memories will remember how Sri Lanka’s war had spilled over into the international arena, and how the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) had become the target of LTTE ire, and caused much political heartburn in India. India’s attempt at keeping peace in the island nation had been one of Rajiv Gandhi’s missions, which came to a rocky, controversial end, and which, directly and indirectly, caused his own tragic end .
Vikram Singh (Abraham) reports to local superior Bala (Belawade) in Lanka, and tries to break away Anna’s supporters: the idea is to defang Anna, and ensure the return of peace. Meanwhile, a mysterious Indian is busy hatching a conspiracy with some foreign players at a fictional Madras Cafe: those involved do not want a political solution, their interest is in keeping the strife going, the loss of innocent lives be damned.
The film is fashioned as a flashback, and Abraham’s