What do you think makes a good movie? And what are the side effects of watching a great movie?
Is a movie good when it makes you laugh? Makes you cry? Perhaps makes you feel a range of emotions? A movie with colorful characters and beautiful locations may be? What about the music, song and dance? Or may be a good movie is the one that takes you away from daily grind and gives you a break that you think you deserve…. But, once in a while there comes a movie that challenges all of your definitions and assumptions, makes you stop and take stock of what you look for in a movie, possibly changes the way you look at cinema experience. For me, that’s what Madras Café did.
I went to movies after a long time. And watching Madras Café was more of a convenience that of choice. It was the only movie that was available in the time slot that I could go. I had heard rave reviews of the movie and John Abraham’s new found acting skills. But as usual, I wasn't expecting the reviews to be accurate. I was in for a surprise this time.
If I use words like realistic and heart-wrenching, it would be an insult to the movie. The movie is anything but heart-wrenching. What it is, is mind-numbing. The movie walks you through the times and lives of people during the 80's Sri Lanka. I’m not very good with politics, has never been. So, pardon me if I don’t use real names of people that are portrayed in the movie. But just because I don’t know the names or don’t wanna utter them, does not by any means reduce the intensity and sincerity with which they are portrayed. They are as real as one might see in a documentary. They are real because they are clear in what they represent. For example, Anna in the movie is not a traditional villain. He is not a garishly dressed, loud mouthing and laughing person who captures the hero and spills all his plans to him. In contrast, he is a well attired, soft spoken, clear sighted person who knows what he wants. There is an uncanny realism in his speech. Like the foreign reporter says to John… “He has clarity in thoughts. He is not just a power crazy terrorist.” Where Anna portrays the unrelenting idealist; John and the rest of the team plays a dedicated and smart team of RAW agents who dedicate their time and skills in protecting the country. The sheer amount of work and complexity of challenges that are shown in the movie take your breath away. And you are left with an awe-struck feeling of helplessness.
The one thought they kept on running through my mind was “God, these guys spend so much time trying to protect us”, I mean we all well aware and conscious of the efforts and blood and sweat that our soldiers put in safe guarding our existence. Our lives which revolve around daily grind of office, work and responsibilities are safe because there is a group of dedicated soldiers that spend their days and nights walking the boundaries and getting into skirmishes with enemy armies. But while the existence and efforts of the soldiers are appreciated and held high in our eyes, we are completely unaware that there is a group of people who are fighting equally brutal battles with unseen enemies within our own borders. These are unsung heroes of intelligence community, who are busy intercepting wireless messages, decoding and trying to make sure that there is no civil unrest that needs to be addressed. These are the people who have jobs which are much scarier than those that the soldiers have on borders. Coz for them the enemy is always veiled, and unknown. What Madras Café does, is it opens our eyes to the unseen and unknown world of intelligence and national security agencies. A cold chill ran up my spine with a mere glimpse of the world that Madras Café offers. A world where deadlines are actually deadly and lives of people are constantly on the line.
There are a lot of things that run through my mind as I write this and I am sure if I start writing all those here, it will take a long long long time for me to finish. so, I’m going to cut through the chase and come to the conclusion.
At the end of the movie, an info screen tells us that the civil unrest was prevalent for 27 years in Sri Lanka. And it only came to an end with a massive blood bath. That I believe is the take away for you of the movie. A country ravaged for 27 years (that’s almost all of my life), dragged through bloodshed and rang with bullets…and what for? For satisfying the ego of a single idealist. Was it really worth it? Is any war really worth the massacre that takes place? Isn't that the question one should ask before anyone takes arms? Madras Café raises these and many many many more questions like this… it is NOT an entertaining movie, neither is it a heart-wrenching movie…. What it is…is a Mind-Numbing experience.