Madras Cafe movie review: John Abraham steals the show!

John and Nargis, both known for their wooden performances have polished their acting skills and have performed several notches higher than what we had expected

Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Cafe starring John Abraham and Nargis Fakhri is not just another typical Bollywood masala flick but is a thought provoking, heart touching political drama. It’s a film that will keep you and your eyes glued to the seat and the screen, effortlessly. Sircar has given meaty roles to all his characters and not just the leads.

The opening scene of Madras Cafe showcases khoon kharaba and merciless killing of innocent people. The scene then effectively moves on to the present where we see John in despair trying to overcome his sorrows with alcohol. Our hunkalicious drunken John Abraham (Vikram Singh) then visits a church where he recalls the blood-curdling tales of the Lankan wars and then the flashback begins. From here, the film takes us back to the 1980’s and is set against the backdrop of Sri Lankan wars.

John Abraham is a military officer who’s ordered to carry out covert operations in Sri Lanka during the rise of Anna Bhaskaran (played by Ajay Rathnam ), the leader of a fictitious rebel group LTF. On John’s arrival in the war struck country, he meets Nargis Fakhri (Jaya) who is a British war correspondent. No, there isn’t any filmy style ‘love at first sight’ that evolves between the two. We’re glad that Sircar has delivered his film with practicality. What we notice is that, while John speaks in Hindi, Nargis responds in English. Maybe she could’ve delivered at least one Hindi dialogue, but we aren’t complaining. We guess the Rockstar babe got her acting right because she spoke a language that she’s well-versed with… Moving on, during John’s stay in Sri Lanka a lot unfolds including a tragic death, followed by double crossing, kidnapping and many more twists.

While being engaged in the politics involved, it’s quite apparent that Sircar hasn’t ignored the importance of relationships in a person’s life. Newbie Rashi Khanna (Ruby Singh), who plays John’s wife in the film doesn’t have a lot of screen presence but all the same she serves her purpose. Sircar has delicately portrayed the kind of relationship that a military officer has with his wife and how the love for our own country overshadows any other kind of love…

Throughout the film, we’re aware that there’s going to be an assassination. Despite knowing it’s going to happen, we still dread the scene and hope against hope that John saves the day. However, Shoojit knows what he’s doing and ensures that John only plays a hero and not some larger-than-life superhero in the film. We love the way Sircar has facilely designed a realistic fiction film!

The cinematography is mind blowing with terrific visualisations and sound effects. Nothing is overdone in the film. Madras Cafe sticks to its genre and remains a political thriller throughout the film without romance, item numbers, vulgarity and unnecessary skin show. Music by Shantanu Moitra is pleasing to the ears. The film isn’t force-filled with unnecessary naach gaana just to add a romantic factor and we totally love that!

The film ends with an intriguing thought, who really won the war. It keeps us pondering for a while that nobody gains at the end of a war, there’s only loss… As the narration ends, the beautiful track Maula Sun Le Re starts playing. Hmmm… Is John asking the Lord to listen to his pleas for his film to work? He surely doesn’t need that for this film to work as it’s the best political thriller that Bollywood has ever seen!

Rating: 4 out of 54 Star Rating

Reviewed by Bhagyashr​i Pawar

* Poor

** Average

*** Good

**** Very good

***** Excellent