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Madras Cafe Brings back memories-Movie Review by Tavleen Singh

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Madras Cafe Brings back memories-Movie Review by Tavleen Singh

Post by sunshine99 on 2013-09-04, 10:14

A review of Madras Cafe by Tavleen Singh


 Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary brought back a flood of memories for me this year. And, not because of the full page advertisements you would have seen in your newspapers from sycophantic Ministers who used public money to commemorate the day. We are a docile people, so nobody questions how the Government departments that claim to have no money for important things can afford advertisements that cost crores of Rupees. Nobody questions either how taxpayers money can be so casually spent on welfare programmes that bear the name of one or other member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. There appears to be a new ‘welfare’ programme every other minute these days, so on this anniversary, I discovered, through one of those expensive advertisements, the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) that promises ‘urban poor’ subsidised credit for housing through the Rajiv Rin Yojana.

What brought back memories of Rajiv Gandhi for me last week, was a new film called Madras Café to whose premiere in Delhi I was invited by my old friend, Rajat Sharma. It rained so hard that day that the roads of the city were clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic jams in one of which I was caught for 45 minutes by a strange irony in the stretch of heavily guarded tarmac that goes past the Prime Minister’s residence. In the days when Rajiv Gandhi lived there, I found myself reminiscing, you could drive through Race Course Road. Today, it has been turned into a barricaded enclave that is impassable for those who do not have an appointment with the Prime Minister. I also found myself recalling those long ago days when Rajiv Gandhi would drive himself to Delhi dinner parties in his white Ambassador car with his wife beside him. This was before he became the Prime Minister and before the assassination of Indira Gandhi created stringent new security rules.By the time I got to the Director’s Cut cinema in Vasant Kunj, I was more than an hour late but so was the star of the movie, John Abraham, so the film had not yet begun. There was time for chit-chat with the Delhi glitterati that Rajat had invited for the show. In the dim light of the cinema, I spotted Shashi Tharoor and his lovely wife, Sunanda, Naresh Trehan and his journalist wife, Madhu and the industrialist, Sunil Mittal. We could have been at one of those parties that always find their way on to Page 3. But, our conversations about media and politics came to a quick end when Rajat appeared with the impossibly handsome John Abraham by his side, and the star apologised for being late. He too had been stuck in a traffic jam. He said he hoped that we would enjoy the film and warned us not to expect any ‘item songs’.

After pro-Tamil groups, now students oppose release of Madras Cafe

 From the very first few moments of the film it became clear that it was about the events that led to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Political thrillers are not a genre that Bollywood likes much so no more than a handful of political films have emerged from the largest film industry in the world. This film is a reminder of the vacuum that waits to be filled. It tells quite competently the story of the Tamil struggle for a separate homeland in Sri Lanka and there are some unnervingly realistic images of the jungles in which the Tamil Tigers once had their underground headquarters. The man who plays Vellupillai Pirabhakaran’s character plays the role so well that I found myself forgetting that this was only a movie.What saddened me was that the film was that in fictionalising important historical events it failed to tell a story that would have been more compelling had it been historically accurate. It hints at how Rajiv Gandhi was betrayed by Indian officials who should have been more aware of the dangers his life was in on account of the Sri Lanka policy they made him follow.

A little more research would have revealed just how serious the betrayal was and of how these officials interfered in Sri Lanka’s Tamil problems by patronising groups like the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). I remembered the days when I personally met Prabhakaran and other Tamil terrorists in their suites in Delhi’s Ashoka Hotel when
Rajiv was the Prime Minister.

Sri Lanka asks EU to help stop LTTE funding 

Rajiv was a novice in the world of politics and was more than a little lost when it came to foreign policy so, he relied on the advice he was given by trusted officials. It was on their advice that he swung from being a supporter of the Tamil terrorism to sending an Army to destroy the LTTE. The soldiers, he sent, were forced to fight with their hands tied behind their backs because they were meant to be a ‘Peace Keeping Force’ so more than 1500 brave Indians lost their lives in a war that was confused, reckless and unwinnable. That was the real reason why Rajiv Gandhi ended up paying with his own life. This is not the story that Madras Café tells. It chooses instead to blame shadowy Western countries for trying to take over Sri Lanka for their own military and commercial interests and with the specific objective of weakening India.The truth is that India began its interference in Sri Lanka’s affairs from the time of Indira Gandhi. This happened because she disapproved of J Jayewardene’s efforts to make economic policies that would have made Sri Lanka into a South Asian Singapore. It was as part of these efforts that Jayewardene invited Western investment long before India got the same idea.  Long before the Cold War ended, long before India realised that the Soviet Union would lose not just this war but the war of economic ideas as well.

India interfered in Sir Lanka’s domestic affairs in much the same way that Pakistan’s jihadi groups are being used to interfere in India’s domestic affairs today. And, it was because of this cynical meddling that Rajiv Gandhi ended up losing his life. It is a sadder and more cynical story than Madras Café tells but, perhaps, it is not yet time for Bollywood to tell the real stories of betrayal and ugliness that lie buried in the secret chambers of Delhi’s sandstone edifices. To end on a happier note, may I say that John Abraham is outstanding in the film and much better looking in real life than he is on screen.

Article Credit:NitiCentral

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Re: Madras Cafe Brings back memories-Movie Review by Tavleen Singh

Post by pollyanna on 2013-09-04, 11:38

Thanks so much Koel for sharing this article. I want to read up on Sri Lanka crisis......Do u know of any novel??

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Re: Madras Cafe Brings back memories-Movie Review by Tavleen Singh

Post by sunshine99 on 2013-09-04, 21:14

pollyanna wrote:Thanks so much Koel for sharing this article. I want to read up on Sri Lanka crisis......Do u know of any novel??
Pallo not much idea on the fictional depiction of the srilankan crisis except 
Anil's  ghost by MIchael Ondaatje and The road from Elephant Pass by Nihal De Silva.

The latter is a romance between a Sinhalese solider and a Tamilian terrorist girl the former is a about a. girl  who has been raised in the West and comes to Srilanka  as a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island. 


Michael's book is very nicely written has a haunting quality to it.

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