Madras Café, A movie of international standards without any doubt with a riveting story, great line up of seasoned actors and some brilliant direction by Shoojit Sircar – who has firmly placed himself in the top echelon of directors with the likes of Anurag Kashyap & Vishal Bhardwaj. In Bollywood the list of directors who make movies that are riveting, and yet don’t insult one’s common sense, are few and far in-between – Shoojit Sircar is certainly amongst them .
The film is about the plot to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi and the events leading up to it. It is about the botched up attempt by the Indian government to bring peace in Sri Lanka, the ego and arrogance of Prabhakaran – leader of the LTTE. We know now in hindsight that the LTTE was a big mistake – The Tamils in SriLanka are far worse off now than before. The movie shows how the Indian government tried to create alternatives for the Tamils in Sri Lanka – again in hindsight this appears to have been the correct move which unfortunately failed. Now after two decades the quest for Eelam (a distinct and different nation) or that of autonomy (provincial governments) has been reduced to calls for humanitarian help. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi closed many doors in India (to the LTTE) and firmly placed the LTTE as a terrorist organization within the world community leading to its ultimate demise.
The only weak section, I feel, in the film is the sketchy details of the so-called foreign conspiracy. The foreign element, including the involvement of elements from the United States and Singapore, was vague at best. But I wonder if this is a flaw or a planned attempt at a future sequel ? Which I hope there will be. John Abraham plays the leading role well, Nargis Fakhri plays the “femme fatal” part well – there was no real need for her role in the film; however, the director managed to weave in her character in the film with ease thereby getting a pretty face in the storyline.
There is an important part of the movie that should be highlighted vis-à-vis the plot to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi – The soldiers and our intelligence staff were doing their job with diligence, at times with their lives at risk. But when it came to the final decision making to ensure the safety of the then ex-prime minister –a cabinet secretary (in the movie) said – “we will just give this information (about the probable assassination) to the state police and let them handle it”. You are clearly only as strong as your weakest link and the weakest link in our country seems to be at the very top. Politicians and bureaucrats who know how to come to power , get promoted with various means , but have no clue how to manage operations or have any foresight when it comes to economic development – their capability is their ability to get to and retain power and nothing more usually. The proof is in the pudding (there are countless examples of this) – else how does a small guerrilla army assassinate an ex-Prime Minister of a country having the fourth largest army in the world? Also an interesting point comes to light – Rajiv Gandhi had actually resigned his post as PM in response to the dismal failing of the Indian army to bring peace in the Jaffna region – clearly a man of higher morals than the current bunch. Maybe those currently in power should take a cue, resign and go back to the people. That will not be possible today as Corruption (Government) is like a business, there is a pay-off every month and eight months (to the next election) is quite a few months of pay-offs.
Madras Café also highlights the economic importance of the Trincomalee port in Sri Lanka and the interests of foreign elements in controlling that port. India has a long and economically important coast line. However the travel from the eastern part of India to the western part (or vice-versa) has a hump – that of Sri Lanka. The Sethu Samudran project would save an approximate 30 hours of travel time and 420+ nautical miles of travel and reducing the importance of any of the ports in Sri Lanka. Of course our bureaucrats have had their way and the entire project has essentially been scuttled – a foreign conspirator was not required – our bureaucracy did the job!
While the movie claims that it may not be based on actual facts (as any other movie) – it is a well-research and well-executed. A “must-see” film !
Image Source: SethuSamudran