Sunday, August 25, 2013

MADRAS CAFÉ: A rare engaging political thriller from Bollywood

REVIEW by Hilath

It’s not every day that you come across from Bollywood what could be called a political thriller. But MADRAS CAFÉ, which was released worldwide on Friday, despite its flaws, is not one that disappoints its two-hour run.

Much in the director’s skill in execution depends on the compactness of the screenplay, to-the-point dialogue, the complementing gritty cinematography and fast-paced editing with a score that keeps you glued to the screen without aware of the frames – or time – passing.

And for once, John Abraham mercifully does not take off his shirt, even once, to distract us from the otherwise very-serious plot, perhaps because, as he said in his interview, he had to lose some muscle as Indian army officers are not necessarily beefed up and look like your average regular guy – and perhaps also because this is the first time he got the opportunity for some serious acting rather than emanating star power from his good looks. Though I have no complaints against him, I still wonder whether an actor like Ajay Devgan would have been more fit for a role like this.

While the film claims it is fictional, there is no doubt that, even if the name Rajiv Gandhi is never mentioned in the film, this is about the Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger plot to assassinate the former Indian Prime Minister. Perhaps, like Katherine Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which has the interesting tagline ‘The Biggest Manhunt in Human History’, MADRAS CAFÉ should have copied Bigelow’s “claimer” that the film was “based on firsthand accounts of actual events.”