'Madras Cafe' takes us back to 1991 when the entire nation reeled under the shocking assassination of the ex Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi in the most brutal manner by a suicide bomber, right in the middle of a rally.
Taking reference from this incident, and taking advantage of the emotions that may still be attached to the sudden assassination, director Shoojit Sircar creates an extremely engaging political thriller.
John Abraham (also the co-producer of the film) plays Indian military officer Vikram Singh, who is sent by the RAW chief (Siddhartha Basu) to Jaffna for an operation against the most powerful militant group, LTF. Abraham leaves his anxious wife (Raashi Khanna) behind to go to Jaffna.
Once in Jaffna, Vikram starts unravelling certain dirty secrets which he can not share with his immediate superior Bala (Prakash Belawadi) and also understands the power of the LTF leader, Anna (Ajay Ratnam). Vikram also happens to meet London-based war journalist Jaya (Nargis Fakhri) on this trip, who later plays a crucial role in his bid to avoid the assassination.
The movie starts at a slow pace, and your heart sinks a bit as Vikram (in an unconvincing dishevelled, alcoholic state) goes on a flashback mode. But thankfully soon after that the pace picks up and before you know it, you are in the centre of civil war-ravaged Jaffna and a whirlpool of conspiracy. It is the second half when the movie actually comes alive with clever screenplay and deft editing (Prajapati). The movie also scores in the casting department as some unknown faces like Belawadi’s, fit the roles perfectly well and deliver impressive performances.
While Abraham has given a sincere performance, Nargis falls short of whatever little expectations of her. She fits the role pretty well, only if she didn’t make it so obvious that she was play acting the role. Raashi Khanna didn’t have much to do but she showed promise.
While some loopholes can be pardoned in this otherwise sincere storytelling attempt, one major hitch is that the movie glosses over some of the ugly, uncomfortable issues that led to the formation of the militant group.
Watch this one as it takes you back to a horrid chapter of our political history and makes you think.