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Movies Ashdoc's movie review---Madras Cafe

Discussion in 'Theatre, Movies & Cinema' started by ashdoc, Aug 26, 2013.

  1. ashdoc

    ashdoc India
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    Everyone in the US who was alive at that time remembers what he or she was doing when the news broke of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 . It's as if the clocks had stopped and time had stood still at that moment....

    Similarly ,for people of my generation the assassination of former Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi is an event that is frozen in time....
    I remember what I was doing when the news broke out---I was in my maternal uncle's house out of my city and when the news came in late evening I spent a sleepless night wondering if the same horror of mass massacre would visit the Tamil community that the Sikhs had experienced when Indira Gandhi had been killed 7 years before....but thankfully nothing happened this time....

    It is the same for John Abraham in this film....Rajiv Gandhi's assassination has frozen time for him....
    More so because he is shown to be personally involved in trying to prevent the assassination---at least in the film....

    And here he is in Kasauli in Himachal pradesh several years later , telling his tale to a Christian priest in his attempt to expung the whole affair out of his system...

    Of course , names have been changed and the assassinated ex PM has not been shown to be named as Rajiv Gandhi , nor has the person who ordered his assassination been shown to be Prabhakaran the LTTE chief ; instead the LTTE is called the LTF and its chief is called Anna....

    But this review will call a spade a spade and refer to those people by their real names---I am a politically incorrect person anyway and never called a prostitute as a ' sex worker ' . So who is going to call Rajiv Gandhi by whatever name he was called by in the film , and who is going to call Prabhakaran as ' Anna ' ?? Not me at least....

    Of course , John the RAW agent is an entirely fictitious creation ; the film mixes real events with a lot of fiction and shows a fictitious account of how a RAW agent tries to save Rajiv Gandhi in the end but fails....

    And that failure is evident throughout the film---failure of India's intelligence agencies to accurately assess what is going on in Sri Lanka at that time , failure to understand Prabhakaran's fanaticism for his ' Eelam ' cause , failure to predict that the LTTE would try to kill Rajiv and succeed , failure of John to complete some of the tasks allotted to him by his superiors....

    Those repeated failures , and the final destination of the film---which is the killing of Rajiv Gandhi---gives a grim tone to the film....
    This film is no picnic , and indeed does not have been made to attract the masses . It's a movie for the elite , with the characters talking in English on several occasions ; and Nargis Fakhri speaks British accented queen's English....

    The failure of John's missions is not his fault however---there is a defector in his organization who tells the LTTE of John's every move , making every mission's failure predestined.....

    John's attempt to supply arms to the LTTE's rivals fails as the arms are captured by the LTTE , his attempt to split the LTTE by trying to kill Prabhakaran and get his second in command to revolt does not work , and he is even captured by the LTTE....

    But the unkindest cut happens when his personal life is shattered by the LTTE---all due to the LTTE informer in his organization....

    On one of his missions he meets Nargis Fakhri the British Indian reporter....
    And she is the one who gives him evidence that the LTTE is planning to kill a big Indian leader.....

    The assassination is shown to be financed by a western country....
    This is typical of Bollywood to show the white man as responsible for many of India's troubles without any basis in fact . But we will have to give the director that much cinematic liberty....

    So how does the RAW handle the info given by Nargis ??
    And does John manage to identify the LTTE mole in his organization ( RAW ) and bring him to justice ??
    Go and watch the movie for that....

    The movie gets better in the second half as events get more gripping....
    .....And the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in the end does inspire some pathos....I found myself feeling sad for the death of the leader of a political party I do not support....

    The film is a tense political thriller rather than an entertainment fest ; there are no songs....

    ....And watching it requires one to have some knowledge of the political and military events concerning the Sri Lankan situation vis a vis Tamils at that time---hardly a film for the illiterates. deletion

    But because I happen to have the basic knowledge of the real life situation of those turbulent times , I found myself getting interested....

    Verdict---Very decent effort .
     

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    #1 ashdoc, Aug 26, 2013
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  3. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    You write these in such an interesting and lively way, I go right to them -your reviews - as soon as I see a new one. Thank you!
     
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  4. ashdoc

    ashdoc India
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    its a very decent effort at moviemaking , but cannot be classed as good . only decent---but very decent .
     
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  5. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Presenting things as they are, subtly

    Madras Cafe is sans item songs or melodrama, but continues to get great reviews. More filmmakers should follow in Sircar’s footsteps without worrying about political fallout.

    Kishwar Desai

    http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20130901/edit.htm#1

    Political films are always difficult to make, and in India there has been an almost unspoken ban on them if they are likely to present our politics — and more especially our rulers — in an unflattering light. This has been attributed (rightly or wrongly) to the delicate and thin skin of all politicians and particularly that of the Nehru Gandhi parivar. Since the Congress has ruled the country for most of its 66 years, the common belief is that it will be difficult to make a film where any person from the family is featured, unless it is unbearably sycophantic. Unlike in the West, where films are often made on politicians, and even increasingly on the Royal family in the UK, in India it remains a no-go area.

    Thus, Madras Cafe, director Shoojit Sircar’s new film, is a brave new attempt, though it, too, balks at any outright criticism of government policy o
    r even of one particular former Prime Minister — in this case, a ‘fictional’ Rajiv Gandhi type of character. Rather, it is quite sympathetic towards him. The film is set in the 80s and 90s when India was actively following a policy

    But at least Madras Cafe examines (in a fictional setting) recent political history, tackling the vexed subject of the civil strife in Sri Lanka and India’s meddling in it. It also invents a version of how the assassination of the Rajiv Gandhi character, referred to only as the ‘ex-Prime Minister’, was planned and executed. Though the filmmakers are careful to point out in the beginning that none of the characters are real, and any resemblance is purely coincidental, the obvious parallels to a very tragic reality is what makes the film interesting, and gives it an important, additional dimension. This is a very tough subject to tackle — and that might be why Shoojit Sircar chose to skirt the really contentious issues, and make this into a political espionage film. Madras Cafe thus becomes a racy countdown to the assassination of an ‘ex-Prime Minister’ with John Abraham playing a RAW agent who stumbles upon the possibility of the killing but is helpless to stop it.

    As a fictionalised version of real events, Sircar has spun a viable tale, though the larger conspiracy theory that he presents, ie, the former Prime Minister was killed by shadowy international arms dealers who did not want a political solution to the island’s civil war, might be a little too simplistic. We all know that the real reason, sadly, was that if one sows a whirlwind then one must reap it, as well, and once India had supported ‘revolutionaries’ in Sri Lanka, it was only a matter of time before they became uncontrollable. It will be interesting to see if future films will continue to glorify India’s role and disguise human rights violations, providing India’s rather bloody history in the island country with some kind of justification. Curiously, as someone in the audience pointed out, was there also a not-so-subtle political message in giving us an alternative history to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination so close to the national election, and is that why no one in the Congress has even mildly commented on it? (Interesting….why is there no tweet from Digvijay Singh as yet?)

    In fact, the film barely refers to the resentment among the Sinhalese of this overt and covert Indian interference — and neither is there any palpable critique of why a foreign nation should manipulate events in the neighbourhood, even to the extent of supplying arms to different warring factions. There is no visible crisis of conscience as the Sri Lankan policy is decided by the Indian Cabinet Secretary and other mandarins and the RAW — without a single significant political figure spotted on the horizon from either country. Only one character in the film, that of the main protagonist, John Abraham’s wife, played by Amrita Rao, ever questions the need for all this bloodletting.

    The other drawback is that there is little exploration of the actual rationale behind India’s building up of the Tamil liberation forces in Sri Lanka — apart from the rather simplistic wish of a former ‘Prime Minister’ of India to impose a political solution onto the country — by forcing one of the so-called ‘freedom fighters’ to stand for elections, instead of resorting to violent means.

    This film succeeds only because it keeps to a narrow cast of characters and a superficial ‘spy’ plot, without much empathy for the Sri Lankan Government, or the rebels, or the larger political issues. It chooses to focus only on RAW and its activities in Sri Lanka, perhaps because any deeper delving would have been far too dangerous for the filmmakers as Madras Cafe is already banned in some of the country. So the clever solution was to treat the Indian Government’s interference in Sri Lanka as perfectly normal-business as usual.

    That said, the film is intelligently constructed and John Abraham, Siddharth Basu (an old friend from college!) as well as other friends like Dibang, apart from Nargis Fakhri, and the rest of the cast have all acted their parts with conviction. The script also moves along at a crackling pace.

    Reassuringly, though it is a film sans item songs or melodrama, it continues to run and get great reviews, and one hopes that many more filmmakers will follow in Sircar’s courageous footsteps without worrying about the political fallout.
     
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