If only a gifted actor and a promising idea could guarantee an engaging film – Madaari would have gone down as a winner. But alas, gifts and promises are not always a precursor to happy endings. Are they? And in that sense, films and relationships have so much in common.
Okay, concealing my desire to share a few more pearls of wisdom on relationships, I would quickly shift the focus back on Nishikant Kamat’s latest directorial venture, Madaari; a film that is so gimmicky, preachy and audacious at places that it becomes uncomfortably ridiculous. I am sure you are familiar with that feeling in a theatre when you have to shift in your seat a little and look the other way as the proceedings on the screen get a tad too uncomfortable. Madaari has plenty of those moments. And sadly, most of these moments were not intended or envisioned to be this way.
Irrfan Khan plays a common man who is predictably faceless and nameless (for a large part of the film). ‘Anaam Kumar’, as he is widely and vaguely referred to, is a social revolutionary cum vigilante who has a painful backstory of his own. He kidnaps the young son of India’s Home Minister (out of all the people) and sets out on a mission to prove his point against systemic corruption. But the methods he employs to accomplish his mission are dubious and the message he conveys along the way are convoluted (whenever they are not plain boring or preachy).
Madaari suffers from an overzealous and almost non-serious approach of handling an issue as grave as corruption. While you definitely feel the angst of Irrfan every time he goes into the flashback mode, the ‘obvious’ circumstances leading him into becoming a vigilante are sketched out in a such a long, tiring manner that the tragedy of losing his son almost comes across as manipulative melodrama. There are some serious questions around rationality of the entire well-planned mission that Irrfan is on to – why hold the Home Minister’s son hostage for a bridge collapse? How is the Home Minister of a country responsible for a collapsing bridge in a city in India – what happened to urban development, surface transport ministers, PWD officials, or CM of that state? How can the Home Minister agree to come to televised live show, into the den of the kidnapper himself, and admit to the whole nation about his entire government being ‘corrupt’? Too far-fetched and too idealistic even from a ‘revolutionary point of view’.
Madaari is also lame in its desire to paint all politicians and decisions-makers with the same brush. The Home Minister laughably admits towards the end that ‘the main reason governments are formed is to practice and propagate corruption’. It is such a sweeping statement that it makes the entire fight against graft look gimmicky and rhetorical. Alright, there is rampant corruption but to pin the whole government down and to try to call the ENTIRE system as scumbag is stretching the argument too far. So, what is the solution, Mr. Kamat? Making all the politicians sit in a LPG gas chamber and blow them up, may be?
The film also desperately tries to look ‘modern and trendy’ by making repeated attempts to gauge the public sentiment through social media and TV debates. It makes the grave mistake of showcasing twitter trends and video comments as being a reflection of popular public sentiment. As a result, both the public opinion in the film and the film’s overall intentions shift sides without much ado, making you wonder – why so feeble, why so not serious?
The part that works well in Madaari is Irrfan’s quiet brilliance as a father who has recently lost his son. The trauma, the anguish and the tenderness of Irrfan’s character as a bereaved man moves you to a great extent and you sincerely want him to get justice and closure. In the second half of the film, there is a particular scene in the hospital where Irrfan shows why he is regarded as the finest actor of our times. Holding on to his dead son’s shoes and school bag, Irrfan’s tears into every emotional chord in your body and sends a chill or two down your spine. It is a shame that a film that had this great actor as a solo lead and a subject so relevant, gets swept away by its stupid longing to be a rhetorical social commentary.
Jimmy Shergill almost reprises his role from A Wednesday – the only difference here being that he gets to speak more and in fact has some effective one-liners to deliver. While he does well as the man-in-charge who has to track down the kidnapper but his inability to catch up with Irrfan’s character in the entire cat-and-mouse game hints at his role not being sketched out well enough. Almost as if the writer created his character with a lot of fervor but eventually lost interest. The two child actors and other supporting actors in the film do not look up to the mark – may be because they are pitted against the powerhouse Khan or an increasingly effectively Jimmy Shergill.
Overall, Madaari is a wasted opportunity – a case of putting the right ingredients in place but coming up with a tasteless, undercooked Biryani. It is a shoddy ‘social thriller’ that models itself around ‘A Wednesday’ but ends up looking as lame as ‘Gabbar is Back’ (if not worse).
Why not stay with Irrfan and his haunting eyes? Revolution could have waited.
Rating: ** (Average)