“Truth has five to six versions”, one of the informers in the critical link to assassinate ex-PM tells a RAW agent (John). He says before leaving, it’s the perspective where you are standing. It doesn’t delve into this moment of truth further but I was glad movie stopped and spared that moment to reflect on the subject matter which was unfolding at frenetic pace in front of me.
Movie doesn’t take any real names but all the references made are real. Year is 1991, when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by separatist group LTTE when he was on his election campaign in south India. Movie is titled Madras Cafe, place where the plot was supposedly hatched presents a solid dramatized detailed docu-drama recreation of those events from the point of view of a spy Vikram (John Abraham, earnest). Film starts with giving little background on how LTTE (renamed as LTF here in film) and its leader Anna came to existence and its rise to power in Northern and East Sri Lanka. Those who don’t know, it is the same old fight over the caste and demand of separate country or region like Shiya Sunni or take any extremists’ fights in the world. In Lanka it was between Sinhalese and Tamilians. India for its own geopolitical reasons got embroiled in the whole Lankan civil war. LTF leader in film Anna is Prabhakaran in real life (LTTE leader) who was known to be funded by India Gandhi government later refused to cooperate with Rajiv Gandhi in peace treaty signed by two nations. Prabhakaran (like Osama to US) was our own creation.
Well, this might serve as history lessons to many who are unaware of that chapter of Indian politics which itself is a small victory for the movie. It starts with Vikram being deployed to IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) to carry out mission of breaking LTF by making its opponent strong but of course nothing goes according to plan and what follows is betrayal, double crossing, higher conspiracy in the midst of espionage intrigue and eventually everyone’s defeat to stop something unfortunate.
This is Sircar’s third film. He is now famous for fabulous Vicky Donor. But political film is what Sircar started with (He debuted with Kashmir issue based film called Yahaan). He is delightful addition to mainstream directors those make smart films for urban audience. I have complain about too much distracting voice over and too much feeding of information to the audience and its over agitated first half but Madras Cafe in its second half makes up for it and things begin to fall into places and I was hooked came out all satisfied. On back home I was wondering we have so much to read in our own history. Thanks to cinema.
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