Bollywood's upcoming release this week is a spy thriller "Madras Café" which features John Abraham and Nargis Fakhri in lead roles. The story of the film, which is helmed by Shoojit Sircar of "Vicky Donor" fame, revolves around the Sri Lankan civil war.
The film showcases the late 1980s and early 1990s which also includes the time when Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.
John, who co-produced the film, plays the role of an Army officer (Vikram Singh) who is sent to Sri Lanka on a mission. Nargis plays a British war correspondent (Jaya) and Rashi Khanna essays the role of Vikram Singh's wife in the film.
The film has released worldwide on 23 August, except in Tamil Nadu where some groups have demanded a ban on it. The Tamil version of the film is not yet cleared by the Censor Board.
The Hindi version has been cleared by Censor Board and was released. Critics in their review have praised the spy thriller calling it 'sensible cinema'. Most of them have rated the film with four stars. Apart from critics, Bollywood actors and directors have also appreciated the film.
Check out the reviews here:
Srijana Mitra Das of The Times of India said: "Straight up, Madras Cafe couldn't be more different to director Shoojit Sircar's Vicky Donor. Political, tense, finally explosive, Madras Cafe is no picnic in the neighborhood park.
"Madras Cafe dives boldly into terrain Bollywood hasn't touched before. Its arsenal features research, respect and bravely, no songs. But it's not arty or preachy anywhere. Its first half is layered, complex trails - leaks, foreign interests, domestic rivals - slowly revealed to Vikram.
"Madras Cafe's true star is its story which builds up to an agonizing end. It brings to life the Lankan war which many viewers were too young to have known. It highlights India's ambiguous role, moving sensitively, taking no sides, except those of relationships involving respect - but no romance - between Vikram and Jaya, duty, victory and loss. Its second half grows more fraught and taut, conspiracies and compulsions becoming clearer.
"The cinematography is remarkable, shots of huge naval warships, helicopters floating across hills, sunshine on a deadly sea, haunting. Commendably, Sircar never overindulges in gore, keeping Madras Cafe a shifting site of mental violence. Madras Cafe deserves an extra half-star for guts, going for the gunpowder - but with a restrained hand."
Akshaya Mishra opf Firstpost said: "It's easy for a movie like Madras Cafe to dissolve into the nonsensical in the true tradition of Bollywood espionage/suspense thrillers. But this film holds its own.
"Gritty, sombre and largely understated, Shoojit Sircar's offering stands out in its purposefulness and honesty of intent. That Sircar is an accomplished storyteller with great skills at narrative balance was evident in Vicky Donor; he proves it again here.
"To begin with, it's a brave plot in our politically hyper-sensitive times. While Sircar's Vicky Donor sought to drive home a serious message in a subtle, light-hearted way; his Madras Cafe stares the subject - the Sri Lankan ethnic strife and the Indian government's embarrassing entanglement in it - in the face and does not hold back much.
"This could be well John Abraham's coming of age role. Troubled and brooding, angry and helpless - he plays it all with uncharacteristic maturity. Nargis Fakhri is not too bad in a tiny role as journalist. But the overall credit goes to the ensemble cast, managed wonderfully by Sircar."
Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama said: "MADRAS CAFE is one of the finest thrillers to come out of India. No two opinions on that!
"Shoojit Sircar takes a historical actuality and along with screenplay writers Somnath Dey and Shubendu Bhattacharya weaves a captivating and compelling screenplay around it. He handles the sensitive subject matter with supreme care, prudence and sensitivity -- without being biased or opinionated. He restructures the civil war in Sri Lanka with authenticity, portraying the rebels and diplomats and also depicting India's involvement in the conflict that had ramifications on India.
"The film is devoid of songs, except for the lone track that comes towards the conclusion, which is absolutely fine. The background score [Shantanu Moitra] is terrific. Shunning away from gravity-defying stunts, the action director also keeps the action as bona fide as possible.
"On the whole, MADRAS CAFE is an earnest and honest effort, a terrific thriller, with several poignant moments and episodes that leave a stunning impact. It's a film that you should watch because it gives you an insight into an exceptionally pertinent episode of history. If you are in the frame of mind to watch superior quality, sensible cinema, I would strongly recommend MADRAS CAFE to you. Try not to miss it!"
Subhash K Jha of IANS said: "The trenchant script, co-written by Somnath Dey and Shubendu Bhattacharya, attempts and succeeds in building the same spiral of pseudo-history that Oliver Stone built in "JFK". I feel Indian politics, because of the country's multi-culturism, is far more complex than its American or European counterpart. Our cinema tends to dilute, simplify and trivialise history because we are much too wary of and lazy about getting involved.
"Not Shoojit Sircar. Not "Madras Cafe". Not John Abraham. What a courageous producer and actor John has proven himself to be! More of that later.
"Plenty of the credit for the tonal correctness of the narrative must go to Kamaljeet Negi's brilliantly unadorned cinematography, which locks in on stunning visuals of violence and espionage-related action without falling into the mistake of making the frames look prettier than the grim situation that they are meant to capture.
"There's a whole lot of stifled drama in "Madras Cafe". When a key character dies in the second-half, the tragedy is handled without fuss. John's tight-lipped performance gives the film a sense of tragic grandeur.
"This is cinema signifying a coming-of-age with unforgettable visuals and drama and a rousing mature career-defining performance by its leading man."
Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV said: "Madras Cafe is a sinewy and riveting espionage thriller that entertains without having to play to the gallery. Sircar hits the right strides, and blends fact and fiction with great narrative aplomb and visual flair.
"Madras Cafe draws upon actual events that are still fresh in the nation's collective memory and crafts a compelling and fast-paced political drama. There are no heroes and villains here for Sircar is clearly not interested in turning the film into an oversimplified, hackneyed good versus evil yarn.
"Madras Cafe stands apart from run-of-the-mill smack-downs because it does not celebrate vacuous militaristic machismo. What the film does instead is bring home the horrors of a civil war and its human ramifications. The writers (Somnath Dey, Shubendu Bhattacharya) obviously have their hearts in the right place. And so undeniably does the director.
"Although Madras Cafe has not been shot on real Sri Lankan locations, the production design, the camerawork and the editing ensure that what unfolds on the screen never looks less than authentic. John Abraham, cast against type, throws all his weight behind the character of the R&AW agent who loses more than he gains in the line of duty. As an actor, he comes up trumps. Nargis Fakhri, playing a journo who converses only English, strikes the right notes.
"Madras Cafe is not your average Bollywood thriller. It crackles with genuine energy and is marked by true empathy for humanity. It is an unqualified triumph."