Cast: Irrfan Khan, Jimmy Sheirgill, Uday Tikekar, Tushar Dalvi, Vishesh Bansal
Director: Nishikant Kamat
Many of our revenge films, particularly those where the protagonist terrorises just about everyone — from politicians to police and the entire nation too — are often too focused on the victimisation of their protagonists as opposed to their eventual bloody vengeance. Director Nishikant Kamat’s narrative in Madaari has all the righteous indignation to help him weave a tale about the level of corruption in our country where everything seems to be fraudulent, unethical and immoral. But even with the best of intentions, the film skips many other important areas he should have focused on, and sets its sights firmly on a somewhat meandering story, not to mention the bizarre climax.
Madaari’s opening scenes are full of frames giving us the sorry state of affairs in our country that cause railway mishaps, disasters, accidents et al, as gradually we get to know Nirmal Kumar (Irrfan Khan), and his tragic past. Nirmal makes it clear that he lost his son to a tragedy that was the result of a bridge collapse, and would not spare anyone: contractors or wily politicians. And a voiceover is used as a crutch with flashbacks tending to add extraneous colour when none is needed.
Now this is the kind of A-grade stuff that could easily be well plotted and unpredictably grounded in reality from start to finish. One is obviously looking for a thriller with various surprises in store. Instead, what we settled for is a long-winded script that has well, the always-dependable Irrfan doing our rescue-act and precious little else. When Rohan (Vishesh Bansal) — who happens to be home minister Prashant Goswami’s (Tushar Dalvi) son — gets kidnapped, he looks one precocious eight-year old who even knows what Stockholm syndrome means. Thereafter, Kamat throws up countless characters and dead ends, meaning one is never sure which dark alley it’s headed down next, as the kidnapped child behaves normally with his kidnapper (Irrfan).
Unfortunately, some uncalled-for sequences diminish what little progress this revenge-thriller-political drama makes. Shifting its focus frequently, the film progresses with no pulse-pounding tense moments here; rather it has some just easy-gong banter between the two: the child and the kidnapper. In one scene, the boy even asks whether he would be subjected to “bad touch” by the kidnapper. To which the enraged Nirmal Kumar threatens to slap him. If the moment was meant to be cruel, it’s not profound, only intensely funny. And unbelievable.
A few such scenes make for good viewing, but the over gown kid falling for his kidnapper’s trap is rather unconvincing. Thankfully, the film does not rely on brutality, but then, too much screen time is devoted to politicians (even the Prime Minister) locking horns to get over the crisis. Besides the obvious revenge and I-have-been-wronged act bent, one question the film seeks to answer is how far one can go before completely losing humanity. Or sanity. When it comes to answering this question intelligently, filmmakers tread a very thin line where the risk could result in either a daring commentary or a hammer-home-the fact show. Kamat chooses the latter.
Here, the parallels between Kamat’s climax and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti are unavoidable as a screeching television anchor is asked to telecast live the goings-on minute by minute. The only difference is: Madaari has too loud background score that could affect your eardrums. Anyway, whether this is deliberate or not, there’s a level to which the filmmaking saves this oddly expressed script, and that obviously is Irrfan’s remarkably assured performance. He nails it without ever flailing into the realms of needless melodrama. The film shows ambition with adept editing, and good performances by supporting cast, but its message remains muddled at best, as it tries, and fails, to effectively comment on the consequences of political machinations that do so much harm to the common man.
The writer is a film critic and has been reviewing films for over 15 years. He also writes on music, art and culture, and other human interest stories....