Madras Café: An engaging combo of fact and fiction

Despite flaws, the movie manages to depict the gritty reality of the Sri Lankan civil war.

Nida Ameen September 01, 2013
Despite flaws, the movie manages to depict the gritty reality of the Sri Lankan civil war.


With a hard-hitting, dense and utterly different film, Madras Café director Shoojit Sircar has finally stepped into a domain that nobody else in Bollywood dared to.

Madras Café is a bold, interesting combination of fact and fiction that is intricately layered around a real-life conspiracy and packaged in a blood-bathed, spy thriller. So, if your sole purpose of watching a movie is to take a break from reality and delve into a three-hour long, light-hearted, musical melodrama, then this riveting war adventure is not meant for you at all.

The movie is structured as a narrative of RAW agent Vikram Singh (John Abraham) to a priest, which in all honesty, is probably the most confusing flaw in the film. It even seems extremely irrelevant once you progress deep into the crisp and intense story line. The first half of the story focuses on the political history of the Sri Lankan civil war in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and the controversial and ambiguous role of India which intervenes as peace-maker. However, despite rigorous efforts, the chief of the ethnic rebel group LTF, Anna (Ajay Ratnam) is hell-bent on taking full control over the region and shed blood, bearing direct resemblance to the real-life LTTE Chief Prabhakaran.

The plot kicks off when the intelligence agency deploys Agent Vikram on a covert mission. He goes to Jaffna to persuade other dignitaries about forming an alliance to fulfill the Indian agenda of holding peaceful elections in the region. From there on, the audience is taken on a compelling journey of corruption, brutality and a chilling revelation — the assassination of India’s ex-prime minister Rajiv Gandhi — that ends in a lose-lose situation for the country as bombers win the race against time. From the fierce background score to realistic cinematography, every element of the film supports the story in the right direction. But flaws do exist.

The film’s first half is a bit of a drag. The story also misses out on an audience’s emotional attachment to the message since it is framed in flashbacks. John Abraham does justice to his role as an agent torn between victory and loss, yet adamant to fulfill his duty. However, it is the supporting cast that stands out. Prakash Belawadi, who plays Abraham’s nemesis Bala, is superb as the drunkard, corrupt colleague leaking internal information. Nargis Fakhri’s role as a well-informed foreign journalist, who tries to pave the way for Abraham through her tricky dialogues, is vague and ill-fitted. Nevertheless, the fact that she had to speak in English most of the time worked in her favour. While the screenplay is gripping, Abraham’s survival in the end unfortunately allows fiction to take command over realism.

Overall, Madras Café is a must watch because of its guts to portray such gritty reality in form of pure fiction. The director’s job in bringing out real-life violence on screen is truly commendable. However, audiences at large still have a long way to go before they can accept these bold, ethnic-centered moves.


If you enjoyed Hollywood flicks like Blood Diamond and Black Hawk Down, you are in for a similar, engaging Bollywood surprise. Madras Café takes you on a compelling ride of real life mixed with historical events.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2013.

Like Life & Style on Facebook, follow @ETLifeandStyle on Twitter for the latest in fashion, gossip and entertainment.

 Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Rahul Gandhi as India's former prime minister. 


ddhiraj thareja | 10 years ago | Reply

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Rahul Gandhi as India’s former prime minister.

dear sir there is no need to apologies for the above correction, it is correct that when rajeev gandhi was assassinated he was the former prime minister and he was not holding office at the time, the prime minister at the time was the now Late Sri Chandra shekar you can google the time of death of rajeev gandhi

wango | 10 years ago | Reply

One if the best Bollywood movie. I just loved watching it. The story, plot,cinematography etc wow...mind blowing. A must watch movie. Don't miss it ..better than that stupid movie chennai express.

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ