John Abraham, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Ronnie Lahiri.
Direction: Shoojit Sarkar.
Cast: John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri, Raashi Khanna, Siddharth Basu, Piyush Pandey.
MUMBAI: As a producer, John Abraham tried a different theme with Vicky Donor and it worked. This time his banner again attempts a film off the beaten track with Madras Cafe. It is about a RAW agent on the trail of LTF (LTTE) to eliminate its leader but who instead stumbles upon a plot to assassinate an ex-prime minister of India (read Rajiv Gandhi). Only, films about RAW and espionage are not a novelty anymore and what's more, in the absence of a valid cause or tradition about stories of Indian spy networks' success, they don't interest people; D-Day, a worthy effort of a RAW mission, is a recent example.
John Abraham is drawn for a mission in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, by RAW. His mission is to either create an alternative for or to eliminate Anna (read Prabhakaran) the LTF chief. This because the PM of India wants peaceful settlement and democratic set up restored through elections in the province of Jaffna. Abraham is on the job but somehow his position is always compromised and the LTF is a step ahead of him. In his pursuit of Anna, Abraham is captured but saved by the army. Eventually, in a major ambush on the LTF camp, Anna is presumed dead. However, he is not and starts his attacks on Lankans and the Indian Peacekeeping Force with more venom and brutality. This leads to the resignation of the Prime Minister (this seems to be the humour angle in the film: an Indian minister resigning, a PM at that!)
But, the film is not about LTF at all as you realise later. It is about a plot to kill the, by now, ex-PM. The people behind the plot meet at Madras Cafe in Singapore and London and even talk over open phone lines. Everything that is secret is known by all except Abraham, the RAW agent! He is clueless most of the time and a journalist from UK, Nargis Fakhri, and her personal sources know everything there is to know about the plot.
Who wants the ex PM killed and why? Looks like an international corporate cartel wants the ex-PM killed because he believes in peace in Jaffna while this cartel wants LTF to win and control the area after which they can have a free run on the province and thereby control the whole region which in turn would pose a great threat to India's security! That sounds like a lot of cock and bull.
The cartel makes things easy as their messages fly high across countries which the Indians decode. The plot to kill the popular ex-PM is revealed. The super agent Abraham makes it a one man mission to save him since the ex-PM would not change his itinerary despite a threat to his life. Sadly, Abraham is late by about 30 feet to save the ex-PM but a safe distance enough to survive the bomb himself. Because the bomb is designed to only kill people in the range of twenty to twenty five feet. Of course!
He spends the next three years hitting the bottle and making occasional visits to a local church till he is ready to tell the whole story of how the PM could have been saved to the pastor.
Madras Cafe is an unconvincing, soulless film in which there is nothing for the viewer to identify with. The film lacks in drama, thrill and romance, and songs have been purposely avoided. The film rests solely on Abraham's shoulder and he falls short by yards. His expressions refuse to change whether he has just found his wife killed or learnt a major secret. Nargis Fakhri has a brief role and she is okay. Direction is uninspiring. Rest of the aspects are passable.
Madras Cafe has opened to a weak response and chances of a pick up look poor.