Now, to the story. The perils of Democracy with so many varied cultures and beliefs; and so little faith and patience is that in India no one can make a film based on a real issue or a historical event without making it seem like fiction. So while we have infinite movies in Hollywood based on real events, we have so few in India. Madras Cafe is a brave attempt to tell us the story of what events lead to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. John is the RAW agent assigned to go into Sri Lanka and try to break up the army lead by a rebellious Anna. His mission is to make sure that peaceful elections prevail in the island nation. But a double crossing agent, a mighty foreign hand and some intelligence leak make his mission even more difficult.
The storytelling is extremely influenced by directors like Paul Greengrass and Pete Travis, where the visuals keep jumping from one place to another, are fast paced and always with intent. But the editors seemed to have taken it a little too far. So there are loads of jarring intercuts. Plus, the voice that binds it all (John's) is too stoic and monotonous to make an impact. Also the dialogue writing is not very good. But there is some great camera work, good cinematography and the film has decent production value. So the war scenes, the killings etc seem authentic. It actually looks like John is walking into a war zone.
Also Shoojit gets 2 thumbs up for showing RAW in a more realistic way. After films like Agent Vinod and Ek Tha Tiger, it's heartening to see a more realistic portrayal. There is no over the top jingoism and the hero is not shown as a one man army. He is as human and gullible as anyone else. The problem with John is that he makes it extremely dead pan. It seems like his brain knows what he has to do, but every sinew in his face revolts and refuses to budge! And then there is the British- Indian journalist Jaya played by Nargis Fakhri. I think she should stick to these small roles which just require her to pout, smoke and say something in English once in a while. It suits her.
Now, there were some people that said that the film shows Tamilians in poor light. I tried my best to see what is that disgruntled them and the only thing I could think of is, that the film does not show one good looking Tamilian who could beat John in the body or looks category! Yep, other than that I think Shoojit has used some very good Tamil actors in critical roles. It all looks very authentic. The Tamilians should have infact revolted against the apocryphal Chennai Express for showing such a cliched side of them and making fun of their language.
Anyways, if anything, this film lacks a bit of polishing and lacks a good lead. But, people should watch it just because of the fact that Shoojit and John had the courage to make it. Also, John should continue to do the good work as a producer, but should be careful not to act in any film he produces! So go on, give it a try because even though it has its weaknesses, good intentions peep through...