“Madras Cafe” review- Grit and Gumption, minus the Gore!

Let me get straight to the point : Madras Cafe is an ideal example of a cinema where content is treated as the king, with both John and Shoojit Sircar churning out one of the most compelling and engaging political thrillers we have seen off late. It deserves a standing ovation primarily because  for exploring a subject -Sri Lankan Civil War- a territory hitertho untouched by our film makers.


Gripping yet grounded, Madras Cafe is set against the background of the ethnic crisis in SriLanka during the 80-90’s, which ultimately led to the assassination of the then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi. The entire story unravels through the experiences of Vikram (John), a RAW officer who is entrusted with the task of surreptitiously conducting  operations in Jaffna by his chief RD ( Siddhartha Basu), to break the strong  nexus of Anna Bhaskaran ( Ajay Rathnam) , chief of LTF.  Working along with his inebriant superior Bala (Prakash Belawadi) and a london based correspondent Jaya (Nargis),his mission unravels a web of conspiracies, deceit, and truth- which alters his life completely .

Merging facts and fiction with complete dexterity, director Shoojit Sircar unfleshes a compelling story on a highly sensitive topic, and deals it with austerity, authenticated with strong research . He sets the tone of the film right from the first frame, keeping the pace and momentum taut and trim, till the climax which is predictable , yet is superbly crafted. While the first half weaves the  the grim background it sets for the erupting crisis in Lanka, its engrossing second half keeps you on the edge every minute, flourishing a complete masterstroke from the makers.   But what makes the film stand out is its honest treatment to the references it takes from real events. The film never resorts to violence nor takes a specific stand to make a point, convincingly delineating the intricate political spectrum and the machinations involved.  Additional brownie points for its meritorious cinematography and legitimate action scenes, elevating the film two notches higher. Shantanu Moitra’s haunting and unobtrusive music adds as a  icing on the cake.

Madras Cafe serves as a platform of exceptional performances from its principal cast. John does a commendable job as a competent RAW officer, suitably mellowed down to display his anguish and helplessness. For once, you see the actor in John rather than his usual overbearing physicality, which speaks volumes of his career best performance till date.Equally good is Nargis Fakhri, who takes the daunting task of a correspondent role with proficiency. Siddharth Basu and Prakash Belawadi deliver exceptional acts, so as Dibang and the rest of the supporting cast. Special mention of the linguistic casting done based upon the film’s requirements, right from beginning till the end. Brilliant..!

Holding up the ideology that a War is Futile, and there are no winners or losers involved in the game of death,   the film magnetizes and stands a winner purely based on its story,screenplay, and performances. A taut and absorbing political thriller, Madras Cafe is a true hallmark of a sensible cinema. Get off the train guys, enter Madras Cafe, to devour a  dark, simmering and an absolutely riveting cup of coffee..!!!


“Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbaai Dobaara” review- Never Takes off !!..

First thing first, I was completely floored by Once Upon a Time in Mumbai. The Ajay-Emraan starrer was one of the most engaging  gangster flicks in my opinion, which succeeded primarily due to its absorbing screenplay, retro look, soulful music  and riveting performances by the two leads at  loggerheads- Ajay’s bouyant portrayal of Sultan Mirza clashing with his nemesis Shoaib, a defiant and ruthless character rendered wonderfully by Emraan. So expectations are bound to be high when its sequel is out in the theatres, with its promos promising to carry this  legacy forward. But I felt a bit cheated after watching  Once Upon Ay in Mumbaai Dobaara , because its masquerades a love triangle behind the veneer of a gangster drama. And ironically,its not even  close to the high standards set by its prequel. In nutshell, Director Milan Luthria fails to replicate the novelty of his original here.


This basic plot of this rather inferior sequel revolves around Shoaib ( Akshay Kumar), the dreaded gangster/don who comes to Mumbaai  with his coterie in the hunt of Rawal ( Mahesh Manjrekar).  Aiding him in this mission is his trustworthy aide Aslam ( Imran Khan), along with his friend Dedh Tang ( Pitobash Tripathi). Both Shoaib and Aslam fall for a struggling actress Jasmine ( Sonakshi Sinha), who is “good’ friend with both but is unaware about their complicity and profession. As expected, things go haywire when the truth unravels, and the climax , to cut it short…involves who wins over whom !

The film starts with a bang, with an explosive introduction of the pivotal characters- Shoaib and Aslam- and some interesting sequences, including one well shot chase scene inside and the peripherials of a running train. The first odd 15-20 mins sets up the tone required for a underworld drama, and one expects the story to gain momentum. But the film slowly fizzles out and loses steam, with the  focus diametrically shifting to the love triangle between the three leads.  The flick loses its originality completely to a rather insipid  love triangle, frustrating the viewer with an anticipation that some action will take precedence till the end. But what remains constant throughout the film is  the voluble  barrage of some interesting and most of the times, incomprehensible and overbearing  dialogues. This aspect, was suitably mellowed in the prequel, and worked predominantly because of its ideal placement in the narrative. Here its inconsistent, and a bit too much sometimes. Some dialogues(Rajat Arora) deserves special  mention though–Shoaibs take on love :”Pyaar aaj kal naukrani jaise ban gaya hai. Aata hai, bell bajata hai, kaam karke chala jaata hai“. On the changing face of Mumbai, Shoaib declares “Yeh bambai, Kumkum se Kimi Katkar mein badal gayi hai’ . On friendship , Aslam opines to Jasmine ” Dosts aasun ke tarah hote hain. Yahan Dil Dukha, wahan who bhi nikle“. Some scenes too stand out because of its novelty , specially in a scene where Shoaib storms through a police station with an intention to surrender himself, only to  witness that he is  completely ignored by the folks who are busy making plans to nab him anywhere he is seen.Ironically,  these gems are too few and far between.

Akshay performs earnestly, lending his own unique swagger to his devilish act of Shoaib, but just like the film, his portrayal too gets banal because he just doesnt get the scope to be at the menacing best. Imran tries hard, but is unconvincing. Honestly, this role was never meant for him. He lacks the rustic and diabolical look which is imperative for a role like this. Infact, the two leads here fail to deliver a compelling clash here,a thing which was the standout feature of the first installment.

Sonakshi Sinha performs well, but she has done this before as well, so there is nothing new in her act. Abhimanyu Singh in the role of a cop is ok, but you sorely miss Randeep Hooda here . Mahesh Manjrekar is completely wasted, though, Sonali Bendre delivers an inspired cameo, and shines in almost every scene of hers. The remaining cast are adequate. Music is ok, but nothing in comparison to the soundtrack of the prequel.

If this film didnt had its illustrious original , i might have rated this film a bit more. But Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara reaffirms a fact that every successful film need not necessarily  be made into a franchise. As Imran Khan mouths a dialogue in one of the scenes ” Teen Tigara Kaam Bigda“, this film is an absolute failure in comparison to a mesmerizing  prequel–Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai.


“Chennai Express” Review–A lavishly boring journey!


One never expects logic and brains when it comes to a Rohit Shetty film. His films are unapologetically inane and loud, orchestrated with loads of noise, flying cars and people, and a plot which is negligible to write about. But its a fact also that he is one of the most commercially successful Bollywood directors. So the huge hype and hoopla around Chennai Express was expected, with the director teaming up with SRK for the first time ( minus his regular faourite Ajay Degn) . But the lavishly mounted Chennai Express turns out to be dissapointing journey, with neither the director nor the Actor delivering what it promises to be– an Entertainer. What it turns out be is a smorgasbord of nonsensical humour,  hackneyed storyline and a modern yet puerile  rehash of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge (SRKs most memorable film).

The thin storyline of this big budget movie revolves around a 40 yr old Rahul ( SRK), who boards the Chennai express train, hoodwinking his granny that he is going to Rameshwaram to immerse the ashes of his late grandpa. But in reality, he is all set to meet his friends midway for a trip to Goa.  He encounters  Meena( Deepika Padukone) in the train, who is on her toes to escape from his goon father ( Sathyaraj), the local Don of his village in Komban ( Tamil Nadu). Rahul is tricked by Meena to accompany her to the village, pretending to be her fiance. What follows is mad cap turn of events, with the lead pair running helter skelter to escape his fathers goons and the bulky menace Thamballi ( Niketan Dheer), with whom Meena is being forced to marry.

Chennai express gets derailed right from the beginning,  with a sloppily paced story and a trying too hard to be funny demeanour, which absolutely doesnt work because the jokes and gags are downright flat and boring. But the biggest drawback of the film is that most of the scenes have been shot in Tamil Language, which would be incomprehensible to the audience who are not even a bit aware of it. As Rahul calls Meena Ms. Subtitle throughout the film, the film indeed needs subtitles to understand the blabber of the Tamil goons . The film unabashedly pays tribute to SRKs own previous films, with references to DDLJ, My Name is Khan, Dil Se, Baazigar in sporadic dozes. But it simply fails to rise above the  mediocrity, mainly because of a waferthin plot and the usual Rohit Shetty tricks of action comedy- big bang stunts and loud noise.


Amidst all this madness, the lead pair gets feeble scope in displaying their histrionics or romantic chemistry. An ageing SRK is consistently inconsistent throughout the film, with doing the usual over the top act with elan in the first half, mellowing down a bit during the post interval portions, and repeating the hamming jazz again towards the finale. He is pleasant in some of the scenes, but gets completely off track for the majority of the film. Ironically, Chennai express will go down as one his worstly acted films , as he tries too hard too compensate for this elaborately riddled mess, and he gets intolerable for most of it. A die hard fan might take up his indulgence, but for the normal audience, his performance is a gigantic dissapointment.

Deepika Padukone gets it right, (thankfully), and is a complete delight to watch. Her Tamil accent coupled with her coherent and centered performance proves she has sharpened her craft considerably, almost 6 years after her iconic debut alongside the same SRK in Om Shanti Om. In fact, she is much better than Khan, and might be the only reason why Chennai Express deserves a review , actually.

The rest of the star cast are completely negligible, but the music of the film is hummable. The DOP does a decent job in giving the film an opulent look.

Honestly, I went to see this film with absolutely no expectations, but Chennai Express is a lavishly boring film. Come on SRK, you have done this umpteen number of times. You are capable of so much more !