Madaari review: Irrfan soars even as film sinks

Madaari begins with Irrfan Khan’s voiceover sonorously telling us a story about the struggle between a baaz (a hawk) and a chooza (chick). It sounds real, he says, but not as good — if in the end the hawk tramples over the chick. However, the same story would feel good but unreal with a different end, one in which the chick gets the better of the hawk.

Nishikant Kamat’s Madaari is a familiar tale of the chick aka common man’s fight against the hawk of a corrupt system — the politicians, bureaucrats, administration et al — that is seen as the cause for every problem facing the nation, be it inflation, unemployment or water crisis. It is, yet another one of the new age vigilante genre of films that articulates the frustration and cynicism deep-seated in the middle-class Indian psyche. The resemblance to A Wednesday, in so far as the larger arc is concerned, is uncanny and unmistakable. There the common man played by Naseeruddin Shah plants bombs to fight terrorists, here Khan kidnaps the home minister’s son to take a unique revenge for his own son’s death and to get the better of politicians, and, as in both the films, the narrative is all about the cat and mouse game, about how the cops (Anupam Kher there, Jimmy Sheirgill here) eventually nab the man but not before he has addressed the nation, spoken his mind, all in an effort to try and wake up the sleeping citizens.

Perhaps we, the viewers are ourselves tired of the many problems or may be the film itself is just plain old tired story-telling that raises no new questions. Madaari is loud and frenzied but doesn’t get persuasive, provocative or rousing. Perhaps a fresh, untold perspective would have helped than an obvious one. The preachy end doesn’t help either be it the talk about a government that exists only for corruption or the citizenry torn apart by the caste-class divides. All this plays out in the midst of a sensation-seeking media circus, a worn out leitmotif now in film after film. Been there, seen that, now what?

Genre: Drama
Director: Nishikant Kamath
Cast:Irrfan Khan, Jimmy Sheirgill, Vishesh Bansal
Run Time 133 mins
Rating: Two stars

Madaari refuses to fly despite the ever reliable Irrfan Khan as its pivot and spine. A pity when you see him put his heart and soul in the role of kidnapper Nirmal Kumar. It’s just the sheer force of Khan’s performance that takes you along from one scene to the next. Be it how he tackles the precocious kid Rohan (Vishesh Bansal) he has kidnapped, for whom he becomes a surrogate father of sorts and vice versa. Or in how he articulates the depth of his pain at the unfathomable loss of his own son in a civic tragedy. There’s that desperately held back tear one moment, and a deafening despair and anguish shared aloud with random strangers in a hospital, in yet another affecting sequence. You just can’t not empathise with his agony.

Yes, you do wonder about his disappeared wife, her side of the story but there’s still something quite heart-tugging and subtly poignant in seeing the single father bring up a child in the many scenes from Nirmal’s past. It’s in these emotional instances, when the film becomes the story of a father and a son, that it involves you, makes you invest in it. Even if it’s to do with the short, comic aside about Rohan’s friend Cheeku and his dad. Or a deeply affecting one of an old man losing his son just before he was to fly away to work in Boston. Or Khan’s own retelling of his peculiar relationship with the patriarch of his huge family.

Wish the film had remained a layered compendium of these unique father-son stories or a heart-rending chronicle of grief than a facile rant against the corruption in the system and the power hungry politicians.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 3:13:30 PM |

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