Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rendezvous @ Madras Cafe

Ah! At the cost of sounding sexist i can't help but express my astonishment with an awe on a truly unbelievable metamorphosis! Not many monsoons ago half of the planet was drooling over a yellow trunk & over the hunk who was donning it with such elan n fervour while emerging from Miami waters that it became sort of a trendsetter. The other half had to do a self introspection to actually figure out whether it was wrongly confined in males' bodies! Until then it was unheard of to even imagine a male doing what was considered to be an exclusive & undisputed territory as the only lasting image etched in the cinegoers minds was still that of an Ursula Andrews (or more recently that of a Halle Berry). Such was the gay abandon with which our very own John did it!

To see the same Johny boy getting into the shoes of an intelligence key man & essaying an all-intense role onscreen was something i self-confessly could never expect! It's a remarkable performance from him & as the producer of this political thriller he has not certainly played a blind by backing himself. But for the promising director who gave us the immensely entertaining sit-com on a sensitive issue in Vicky Donor it must definitely have been a huge leap of faith he decided to take while agreeing to sign this engrossing saga. Shoojit Sircar is on top of his craft all through the 130 minute duration of this potboiler set to depict the cross border socio-political unease in the two decades of eighties & nineties. I can sympathize with a relatively new generation which can't be expected to have even an inkling of what all transpired between India & Sri Lanka during those years ultimately leading to the watershed event in the history of Indian politics on that fateful scorching summer night of May 1991. It helped (in relating to the plot) that still as an adolescent yours truly was trying to figure out (with all confusion of course) as to what all was going around from the headlines of Rajasthan Patrika.

Beyond the main protagonist in John & the affable story teller Shoojit also there are so many stars this (ostensibly) authentic narrative rides on. Story, screenplay, editing, cinematography, soundtrack (and probably in all other technical departments as well) you just don't find a single flaw. Such is the vice-like grip of the pace at which the film rolls that you don't feel like affording a blink! There need not be a song & dance sequence to puncture the spirit of such a thriller and thankfully, better sense has prevailed. Wow! And the icing on the cake is characterization. The entire ensemble has been so carefully selected that you just get into an awe. For the ones who had seen those old The Hindu pics the spooky resemblance of the female suicide bomber with the real life one gives serious goose bumps. And btw, who would have expected Nargis Fakhri to do a cameo of a foreign magazine journalist with such near perfection! Siddhartha Basu adds chutzpah as the head of the country's intelligence agency.

While the jury is still out on the authenticity of the story as it has been told and i didn't see any disclaimer of whether it's a fictional work and/or is an inspired one one thing is for sure. This story had to find its rightful place on the silver screen. It is no surprise that it took over twenty years for someone to have both courage (for its unchallengeable political sensitivity, internal as well as external) to candidly execute the project as well as conviction about its commercial viability. A case in point is a ban imposed in Tamilnadu on its screening! For all his earnest emotions about his baby John would be puerile to even think of anything other than that beforehand. To hear him express his childlike crazy anguish over it was heartening yet bizarre. He must have known about it & it certainly doesn't take anything away from this masterpiece which on the REndex (RG's Entertainment Index) gets a perfect ten.

(C) Rits original