If you are already assuming that this is going to be a critical analysis of Madras Cafe in comparison with Dil Se, you are wrong in the first place.
Dil Se, a movie set on the backdrop of insurgency in Assam was total failure from all aspects. It mis-represented the insurgency issue of Assam in a pathetic way; it failed in its statement of showing insurgency as a futile method of bring solution and even failed in the box office in spite of being a Shahrukh Khan Starrer. Manisha Koirala as small eyed girl to represent an Assamese insurgent did not help, for everything in the movie was far, far away from reality. Nobody expects an insurgent fighter to dance and sing around in skimpy outfits with a reporter after all, when her next mission is a suicide attack on the country’s capital. Not to mention the fact that no insurgent group of NE, whether it is ULFA or NSCN have ever carried out any attack till date, outside of North East (leave alone Delhi) and that itself was the biggest flaw of misrepresenting-representing facts in Dil Se.
Various other films on insurgency were made in Bollywood and the only one worth mentioning remained Gulzar’s Maachis, which excellently portrayed the humanity and love of insurgents of Punjab. All other movies were mostly about either about Pakistan bashing or those with chants of Bharat Mata Ki Jai, long speeches before the climax with an agitated Sunny Deol type hero running towards a hundred enemies with just a rocket launcher in hand.
Then came Madras Cafe, last week as a breath of fresh air. As a movie, this is the first one which had the courage to boldly dive into matters regarded as strict No-No for even political discussion. Unlike chants of Vande Mataram, the movie was crude in showcasing far more reality and did not hesitate to showcase Bala(Prabhakaran)’s victory over Indian Army or the failure of intelligence in Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. It showed RAW official Bala as a traitor of the nation honey trapped (Reminding us of real life RAW’s senior officer Kunnikrishnan who was planted by a foreign Air Hostess to extract information), Jaya as a Journalist reminded us of real life journalist Anita Pratap, who first interviewed LTTE Chief Prabhakaran and the tactics used by RAW to divide the Tamil Tigers into factions (the way we see it happening with most Insurgent groups of North East including the ULFA).
In history of Bollywood, Madras Cafe would go down as one of the finest creations ever and the director deserves the technical credit. However for the Tamils, the movie evidently is a painful ride. The director did attempt to maintain a neutral stand, as evident from the conclusion which questions on who the winner from that war was, or from dialogues such as One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. However at the end of the movie, one is forced to sympathies with Rajiv Gandhi more (Congress may actually take advantage of it!) than the Tamil cause of Sri Lanka or the genocide. The director of Vicky Donor fame should have probably taken influence from In the Land of Blood and Honey, directed by Angelina Jolie which was successful in portraying the Bosnian conflict.
We cannot expect a Bollywood movie to the torch bearer of history ever, but in the lane of history 50 years from now this movie will become a piece carrying a visual tale of the Tamil conflict. This is where the problem lies, for the movie will then neither be able to showcase the Genocide nor the fact that LTTE itself was a creation of RAW.
Being an Assamese, I know of the pain what Tamil people are going through right now. For, we Assamese too had felt the same pain when we saw our motherland Assam and the insurgency there grossly misrepresented in Dil Se.
The irony is that Dil Se was directed by Mani Ratnam, the celebrated Tamil Director. Now the Ghosts set free by him seem to be haunting his own people, who celebrated him most. Can you speak up this time again, Mr. Mani Ratnam and ask your fellow Tamil brothers to shut up?
I would only say that Madras Cafe is at least far better than Chennai Express.
Priyankan Goswami is the Editor of Times of Assam’s Political Analysis section. He is also founder member and member of the Executive board of Times of Assam.
By Academic Priyankan Goswami is MBA & Mechanical Engineer.