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Arms and the Men

At the Screen Preview,director Shoojit Sircar and actor John Abraham assert that their spy thriller Madras Cafe recreates the Sri Lankan civil war but doesn’t take sides

Written by Express News Service |
August 21, 2013 3:32:50 am

Express Features Service

JOHN Abraham vividly

remembers the morning of May 22,1991. “I woke up when I felt a drop of water on my cheek. I saw my mother

crying even as she drew the

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curtains over my bed. When I asked her about it,she explained that our then Prime Minister

Rajiv Gandhi had been assassinated the previous evening. I was too young to understand everything,but the news coverage left an impact on me,” recounted the actor at the Screen Preview of Madras Cafe on August 17. The Screen Preview was held on August 17 at Express Towers,Nariman Point. Abraham,who has also produced the film,was joined by the film’s director Shoojit Sircar.

With the release of Madras Cafe scheduled for August 30,Abraham is moved by the fact that the film is based on a premise that draws from the incident. “Shooting the climax was challenging; it left me shaken,” said the actor.

The film’s biggest strength,claimed Sircar,is its subject—

civil war — which has not been addressed through Indian cinema before. “Madras Cafe is about the journey of Major Vikram Singh,who is appointed by the intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to conduct some covert operations against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Civil War. How he gets entangled in the ensuing political turmoil forms the crux of the story,” explained the director. The challenge for the filmmakers lay in representing,in an unbiased way,all the parties involved

in the conflict — the peace forces,the Sri Lankan army and the regional fighters.

Abraham added that the film is an edge-of-the-seat drama with great international appeal. “It’s an Indian film with desi actors and sensibilities. But it is like Hollywood film JFK in terms of conspiracy,Body of Lies in terms of

treatment and Argo in texture,” said the actor,who has planned to release the film in Malaysia,Poland and some countries in

Eastern Europe apart from the usual overseas market.

The duo also shot down speculation about the film being banned. “The censor board has cleared Madras Cafe. We have also dubbed it for release in Tamil Nadu,” said Sircar. The film,he added,doesn’t take any sides,choosing to instead recreate the civil war.

Although Jaffna has been recreated in Kochi and parts of coastal Tamil Nadu,the location of the fictional Madras Cafe,after which it has been named,has not been revealed. “Many conspiracies are hatched and several conversations get intercepted at the cafe,which is why it plays an important role,” added the director.

Talking about the casting,

Sircar said Siddharth Basu,who makes his acting debut with the film,brings a certain credibility to his role. “Having worked under him,I know that he is a fine actor,” he said. Nargis Fakhri was initially apprehensive about playing a war correspondent as the role is devoid of glamour,but after viewing some footage of women war correspondents such as Anita Pratap and Christian Amanpour,she agreed.

Abraham believes that aside from the song-and-dance routine,a mass entertainer should also jog one’s brain. “Madras Cafe is an honest and radically different film in today’s times. It revolves around important events that changed the political history of our country,” he said.

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