Madras Cafe is a product of Bollywood, but unlike any other Hindi film you might ever have seen. In the midst of mindless masti passing off as cinema, Madras Cafe stands out as an earnest endeavour that reminds us of just how good Bollywood can be if (and when) they put their mind to making memorable cinema, great cinema even.
A taut political cum espionage thriller, Madras Cafe treats a delicate subject with great care and honesty, a remarkable feat given how political topics can easily upset sensitivities. Mixing fact and fiction seamlessly, Madras Cafe flies along thanks to its crisp editing and pacing and there are no heroes to root for nor villains to boo at. This is not your classic tale of good vs evil retold. If you know nothing about the war in Sri Lanka for over two decades, the very least Madras Cafe will do so is open your eyes to it.
For those in the know, you know fully well what’s coming at the end of it all, and you will still be on the edge of your seats thanks to the superb pacing of the film. As the assassination plot segues into the classic race-against-time thriller, the tempo of the film will keep you riveted right until the final chilling explosion that you expected to happen all along. Somehow restrained and yet glaringly compelling at the same time, Madras Cafe is a powerful story that transports you back in time to a place where there ends up being no winners, losers, good guys or bad guys.
Each character in the film plays their character to the fullest of their abilities, right from John Abraham’s grizzly military intelligence officer Vikram Singh to Nargis Fakhri’s earnest British Asian journalist Jaya Sahni. Even Siddharth Basu (yes, the quiz mastermind himself) puts in a very real performance that draws you in, which makes one wonder why he isn’t acting more!
There are several good reasons why you should catch Madras Cafe, but in the end you need just the one. Watching high-quality cinema is its own reward, and Madras Cafe is one film you won’t want to miss.