I watched the espionage/political thriller called Madras Café recently. It was set in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The director of the film, Shoojit Sircar went on record to say that this film was ‘fiction created from facts’. The events that formed the backdrop for the movie were the Sri Lankan Civil War, and the assassination of India’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The film opened a few months ago on August 23rd, 2013.
The star is John Abraham, who usually plays hunky leading men. Playing the fictitious, Major Vikram Singh, Abraham had to shed some pounds and some muscle. To be an effective covert operative, he’d have to blend into a crowd. The role of the foreign (British) correspondent, Jaya Sahni, went to an American woman, Nargis Fakhri, who was born and grew up in Queens, NY.
As a thriller, the film is fairly effective although it is partially hamstrung due to the merging of two stories. One story line is the fact that India sent in covert operatives as a means to try to get the Sri Lankan Sinhalese majority to reach an accord with the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka. This would, if accomplished, a political solution to the ongoing and extremely bloody Sri Lankan civil war. This pretty much takes up the first half of the film.
The second story thread is that in the course of events, Major Vikram Singh, with Sahni’s help, discovers a plot to assassinate an unnamed Ex-PM. We know that Gandhi was assassinated when a woman carrying a bomb beneath her clothes blew herself and him up at a political rally in a South Indian town. So there’s no real suspense about that. Even so, the race to try to prevent it and save Gandhi was thrilling.
Okay, Abraham and Fakhri are good-looking, attractive people. Director Sircar filmed in Malaysia, Thailand, India and the UK. With the attractive leads, and the great locations shoots, the film looks beautiful. The extremely high body count is another factor. While not quite as heavy as what we saw in The Killing Fields, it is certainly not a film to bring the kids to.
Another aspect that makes this a film that is far different from much of the Bollywood fare we see, is that there’s no song and dance numbers. Singh and Sahni are not suddenly transported to some alpine setting for a love song. In fact there are no love scenes. Singh is a married man, and true blue. And Sahni is all business.