It is not often that a film with Irrfan Khan in the lead elicits whistles and claps as the protagonist hits an antagonist. That usually happens with the other Khans -- Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir. "Madaari," that way, is defintiely a departure of sorts for the uber-talented Irrfan, who has also produced the Nishikant Kamat-directed film.
"Madaari," in fact, is Irrfan all the way. His expressions, his dialogue delivery, his angst, his anger, his pathos seem to ooze out of the screen. However, a single actor can never carry off what is essentially a thriller. To that end, Kamat shows promise with the opening scenes and a largely fractured narrative, but the film gets progressively slower, and nearly plods towards the end. And the fact that it clashed with Rajinikanth's "Kabali" may also hamper its business.
The story is somewhat formulaic. A man who has lost his son kidnaps the union home minister's son and execute an elaborate plan for retribution or justice -- whichever one chooses to believe. In films where the premise is this simple, either the plot or the execution has to shine for it to be memorable and successsful.
Sadly, the execution is nothing to write home about, and the plot has so many holes that it can act as a sieve. The two instances of bait-and-switch Kamat uses to mislead the audience add to this mediocrity.
So why in the end does this film deserve three and a half stars? If it is really mediocre, shouldn't it get one star less, which makes it just average?
Truth is, this film rises beyond mediocre primarily because of Irrfan and some eye-catching performances by the supporting cast. And, "Madaari" happens to have one of the hardest-hitting climax scenes of recent times, with politics deconstructed in a way that makes absolute sense, but in aa crazy way! Even inter-departmental politics gets a nice showcase early in the film.
As for the actors, Irrfan is absolutely fabulous, while the likes of Uday Tikekar as the slimy politician and Tushar Dalvi as the home minister are believable. Jimmy Shergill seems to have been typecast as the strict officer -- a top CBI official -- and yet manages to leave a mark. Vishesh Bansal as the home minister's kidnapped son deserves a special mention. He plays the perfect foil to Irrfan's apparently ruthless but somewhat vulnerable kidnapper.
"Madaari" began as a really brain-wracking, edge-of-the-seat thriller, but the audience finally left the theatre with a lump in the throat for Irrfan's character. That, and the climax, were really worth sitting through a progressively slow film.