CAST & CREW
“Madras Café” is an out and out spy thriller, but while it is not one of those typical glitzy packages that abound nowadays, it is based on the real-life incidents about the Sri Lankan civil war years with the involvement of the Indian Peace Keeping Force, their subsequent withdrawal and the events leading to the death of ex-Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. While it is not a glamorous presentation, it is also not in any way as a documentary, but a presentation that deals with the theme professionally. Incidentally, the film is named as such, as it was at that café in Chennai that the assassination plot was hatched.
Plot: As would be expected of the plot that deals with civil war and behind the scenes espionage, there is no dearth of brutal violence and ruthlessness. The central protagonist is RAW agent Major Vikram Singh, portrayed by John Abraham, shown in the thick of the turmoil, and planted in Jaffna to work behind the frontlines to get the Tamil Liberation leader Anna Bhaskaran (based on the real-life character of LTTE supremo, Prabhakaran and played in the film by Ajay Rathnam). The other major characters are Major Robin Dutta, the RAW chief, rendered by Siddhartha Basu and Vikram’s immediate superior, Bala, a character with intimate knowledge of Jaffna and the local Tamil politics – played by Prakash Belawadi.
The two main female characters include Jaya Sahni, a British journalist who briefs Vikram about the ground realities in Sri Lanka, the role being portrayed by Nargis Fakhri; and the other is Ruby Singh, who is the wife of Vikram, played by Rashi Khanna. The acting of the main characters in the film are deliberately underplayed and meant to be so by director Shoojit Sircar. As a result, John Abraham has to play a role untypical of Bollywood heroes in action films. He is no ‘destroy all in my way’ type of hero but more a victim of circumstances trying gamely to do his task of surviving amongst odds to nab his target. Nargis Fakhri, the American model, turned actress, as the main female protagonist, lends credence to her role of a British Journalist, delivering all her dialogue in clipped English, living faithfully up to her role as a British journalist, (modeled somewhat on BBC journalist Anita Joseph). The rest of the actors fit into the plot very smugly and naturally. What makes the film a truly professional rendition also comes from the fact that it is supported by excellent cinematography of Kamaljeet Negi which captures the war affected landscape quite brilliantly, and it imparts a really authentic look to the surroundings. This is well aided by the superior editing skills of Chandrasekhar Prajapati.
The film is obviously well researched, and story writers Somnath Dey and Shubhendu Bhattacharya have knitted in the facts with genuineness into the main plot through the screen play. The only place where the film slips on the count of authenticity is in the Tamil spoken by the locals in Jaffna – it sounds too much like the accent heard in urban Tamil Nadu.
Verdict: All things considered the film comes up as one very efficiently and authentically produced, and one which would give enough satisfaction to the serious film lover.
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