Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Madras Cafe Review

What did I take away from Madras Cafe? Nothing. Some knowledge, may be. But I can't be sure about its credibility as this is a "pure work of fiction". Everything is coming straight out of the fantasy world of the writers/director. Real incidents are tweaked to construct this surreal docu-fiction. It's about the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi... how it was done and how it could have been avoided? And all the events preceding this unfortunate incident form the part of the narrative. Through flashback, from the point of view of a R&AW agent Vikram Singh, as a confession to a priest in a church. That sounds odd but we are supposed to be emotionally invested in the protagonist.

Playing with political history and creating a believable story out of it was never much experimented in the film-making history of our country. (Well, some villagers freeing a certain part of India from British Raj by winning a cricket match was never very believable. But it was a well-rooted fantasy world.) Director Sircar doesn't take you into his world. And I count that as a shortcoming of this film. When it's already proclaimed as a work of fiction, then why so serious? Let's play with it. Tarantino killed Hitler in his Inglourious Basterds, and how! Sircar tells this story as if it actually happened- with no humor or style at all. Each character coming in is as bland as the other one. No one really leaves a mark. 

When the two leads- Abraham as Vikram and Fakhri as a journalist Jaya- meet for the first time on a boat to the island, there's a scenic shot of the waters. But that shot lasts only for a second or two. Next shot is of devastated faces of civilians at the island where the war is taking place. That's disturbing. So, yes, there's a lot of seriousness to be handled. (There's also a concern raised, in a note at the end of the film, about the Tamilians killed in the civil war in Sri Lanka.) But, thanks to the crisp storytelling, we aren't bombarded with its heavy-duty tone. We walk through over its surface, feel it appropriately only to sympathise with the happenings. And, that's what the director wanted to do and has accomplished well in doing it. He's clearly not shying away from the brevity of the subject but he doesn't wish to make any political commentary either. After the "ex-PM" is killed, one character even asks what his mistake was. And the father who was listening the entire story asks Vikram, "Who won? The LTTE LTF or our nation?" To which Vikram responds, "I don't know. Or no one actually. Both lost."

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