It is not that often that we see spy movies which keep close enough to reality rather than the James Bond model with stylish action and a display of superior skills and strange, unbelievable gadgets. In that case, this movie has successfully resisted its temptation to be another Ek Tha Tiger or Agent Vinod with all the super-stylish espionage with a romance tone always ringing a bell in the background. A few people might find it difficult to keep away from the usual pattern, but not Shoojit Sircar who continues his success of Vicky Donor. This was actually a week which was plagued by the absence of good English or Malayalam movies, and therefore the choice had to be Madras Cafe, but not before suffering from the Malayalam movie Olipporu. What came to my mind when I heard about this title was Kerala Cafe, the 2009 Malayalam movie which was quite a landmark, and such a matching title is nothing less than inspiring enough to watch the movie, not only the positive reviews and the good personal opinions which has been gathered by this movie so far. Its message is simple – that in the case of each and every war, it is the civilians who suffers the worst on both sides, and it is the terrible loss of human life and property that is the ultimate truth.
The movie is set mainly in India and Sri Lanka, and the action also shifts to the United Kingdom, Singapore and Thailand on occasions. So the movie is a political thriller as well as an espionage action flick with all the eyes on that defining moment in Indian history. It is the story of Vikram Singh (John Abraham), an Indian Army special officer in the backdrop of the Sri Lanka Civil War. He is appointed by the Indian intelligence agency to lead the covert operations in Jaffna just after the Indian intervention there didn’t really work out. He travels to Sri Lanka leaving his wife Ruby Singh (Rashi Khanna) at his abode at Cochin, and comes across Jaya Sahni (Nargis Fakhri), a British journalist of Indian origins. As she is there for humanitarian concers, Vikram is there for the Indian causes, and their paths meet consistently. But their world is still not that apart and their objectives are not that different in the end. The result is not just the uncovering of all the conspiracies which runs behind the scenes, but also finding all those people who work for the other side, and finally discovering a plot to assassinate a former Prime Minister of India.
This is undoubtedly one of the best roles of John Abraham so far. The most significant thing about this role is that our hero is completely out of his comfort zone except for those shooting scenes which comes quite often. He is still there to fit in, as the perfectionist covert operations officer, the loving husband to a lovely wife and a true patriot whom his department deserves rather than the other way around. He is tactically superior to almost everyone around even as his impact is limited due to the huge amount of backstabbing and treachery which is involved among his own people. Still, he is perfectly human and doesn’t come up with the typical John Abraham show as one would expect from the hunk. But this one is a more realistic, and the much need performance from him, a lot above what was expected. He has taken over his role as the leading actor with what was needed just like his role as the producer. There might surely be the people who are to find it difficult to agree to that statement, but it is proven, and John Abraham is back.
Nargis Fakhri’s Jaya Sahni, a British journalist and foreign war correspondant in Jaffna has a significant role in the totality of investigation, but not that much of an imposing screen presence. She looks beautiful, determined and adamant throughout the movie as a character who might have almost worked a miracle on the events. She is the daredevil, the exact opposite of Rashi Khanna’s Ruby Singh – the worried housewife who is troubled by the absence of her husband who disappears in Sri Lanka and is later consistently under threat. She still has a lovely debut though, opposite one of the most stylish actors in Bollywood, and does her part well. Siddharth Basu’s Robin Dutt is an outstanding performance which adds to the rating of the movie by a good margin. The others have also done well making this movie a very good combined effort which is brought together by its working of the plot, the narrative style and the effort of the director.
How often do we get such good political thrillers? The Malayalam movie Left Right Left was one of those political flicks which seemed to make a powerful impact. Well, this one is clearer in its vision, as it takes no sides and passes absolutely no real judgement. Its viewpoint is the same as that of any neutral person watching the movie. To add to it, this time there is the espionage element – it is present at the right dose, and not at all glorified or exaggerated. Nobody is killed in slow motion and no hero takes on a large group and throws bodies in all directions like a freak of nature. There are also no bloody songs or retarded emotional nonsense of dumb romance, as this one keeps its world alive in reality rather than in a romanticized pandemonium. But people might still prefer the wrong movies which makes absolutely no sense and at the same time, has not even that ability to inject nonsense at the right dose. What would happen to the real good movies then? That is a question which can be answered only by the statistics which show more of a world deserving depression.
3 Idiots, Chennai Express, Ek Tha Tiger, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Dabangg 2, Bodyguard, Dabangg, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Don 2 and Ra One are the highest grossing Bollywood movies according to Wikipedia. This clearly leads to the loss of faith in humanity and the need for the end of the world is asserted in a brutal manner. Unless movies like Madras Cafe, Go Goa Gone, Table No. 21 and a few similar ones have some spot in that list, there would no justice served. Well, they can add Malayalam movies like China Town and Maya Mohini to that list of pure nonsense which grossed the highest. Rowdy Rathore, Ready and Agneepath follows in the high-grossing list, and that adds to the need for a quick destruction of the world. The restoration of hope in this generation and the movie-watching people of this world can happen only after having a look at the final collections of Madras Cafe, something which could be fine, but nothing exceptional.
The movie is still slow, and that might be a bad thing for some – but the slow rhythm of the movie still can conquer some other hearts. There was so much of details and information being showered upon the audience and this slower pace might have helped it to blossom – come with the brains this time, for you have watched too many mindless movies which made no sense and scared the world’s best nonstop nonsense. We already had successful slow thrillers in the form of Memories and Mumbai Police, and it is time a slow political thriller takes its place among the best movies of 2013. It took me some time to watch this one only because of the horrible attack of the movie Olipporu and my fears on being not able to understand the political scenario in Hindi. But that went really smooth, and the whole thing was very impressive, ending with Rabindranath Tagore’s lines “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”
Release date: 23rd August 2013
Running time: 130 minutes
Directed by: Shoojit Sircar
Starring: John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri, Rashi Khanna, Siddharth Basu, Ajay Rathnam, Prakash Belawadi, Tinu Menachery, Agnello Dias, Piyush Pandey
@ Cemetery Watch
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