‘Madaari’ review: The Nation’s Wont to Know

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Madaari Poster

THIS Friday, director Nishikant Kamat spun out his latest effort, Madaari in the theaters. With screenplay by Ritesh Shah and written by Shailaja Kejriwal, this socio-political thriller piqued me, actor Irrfan co-producing this venture being just one of the reasons; my interest in Nishikant Kamat’s oeuvre being another pre-eminent one.

Imagine my surprise when, even as I was collecting my thoughts and walking out the cinema hall, I was approached by two natty representatives of a news channel. Before I could shout “Breaking news!”, I found myself in a studio, ready to participate in a panel discussion about Madaari.

This, then, is a truthful narration of the discussion that never took place, and consequently, will never be aired:

Arnab Goswami (AG): WELCOME TO TODAY’S DISCUSSION ON MADAARI! Joining me for this debate on the phone are: actor Irrfan, director NIshikant Kamat, and our security expert on everything that’s insecure, Maroof Raaza. In the studio is….HEMMM..HAWWW….you, what’s your name?

Me: Errr….aah….

AG: VERY GOOD!  Coming to the debate, my first question to the panel – THE NATION WANTS TO KNOW, what is Madaari about?

Irrfan Khan (IK): Dekhiye janaab


Nishikant Kamat (NK): Hey baghaa….

Maroof Raaza (MR): It’s Wagah, not Baghaa….

AG: Thank you, Maroof!! YOU! WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Me: To me, director Nishikant’s latest is a gripping tale of one man lashing out against the system that’s shattered his happily mediocre life. It’s been done to death, yes – we saw it in A Wednesday as well –  but somehow, the angst in Madaari is closer home.


Me (trying to ignore my excited host): I thought the first half of Madaari was set up at a clipping pace – the director very swiftly letting us know that the home minister, Prashant Goswami (Tushar Dalvi) is informed that his son’s missing from a school camp, and then, the realization that he’s been kidnapped. The mastermind behind the kidnapping is Nirmal Kumar (Irrfan Khan) – he a shaggy, dishevelled looking bloke – and his motive is revealed through some very sharp and smart cuts. His kidnapping modus operandi will most certainly make you go, “Hindi-Chinese food, bye-bye.”


MR: No, no – the Chinese food stalls were supposedly an incursion to hook our youngsters to MSG or ajinomoto…

IK: Aji, na motto hai, na noodle, zindagi ban gayi hai ek doodle….

AG: THANK YOU IRRFAN!!! That was very perceptive! YOU!!! GO ON!!!!!!

Irrfan - when all is lost
Irrfan: when all is lost

Me: Director Kamat also nicely gets in the evolving relationship between Irrfan’s NIrmal and the minister’s son Rohan Goswami (Vishesh Bansal). This could have been a sheer cloyingly overdose of sentiment; fortunately, it is not. Rohan’s Vishesh could have been a precocious child whom you’d have gladly clipped a quick one; fortunately, he is not, although he almost comes close –  but the director quickly averts a sappy accident.


NK: Chaila….

AG: Nishi, we do not serve chai during prime time – only hard news and liquor.

MR: Booze has always been a parallel warfare…

IK: Warfare ho yaa rickshaw fare, middle class waale ki ghisti hai, ek chappal ho ya pair….


IK: That was Preity much Saif’s movie, not mine.


Me: If the first half of Madaari is a thriller, the second half of the movie goes deeper into Irrfan’s character’s motive and his story. There’s nothing here that you haven’t seen before, and yet, director Kamat ensures you’re in his grip for the most part.  To add to the tension is the cop assigned to track Rohan and his kidnapper down. As the cop Nachiket Verma, Jimmy Shergill is tops. His performance is superbly controlled, as he begins to catch up with the two-steps-ahead Nirmal Kumar. The actor polishes his role with a coat of suave surety and upper lip stiffness that displays only his focus to get the job done. And yet, as the climax approaches, you’re not sure if he betrays just a hint of what he’s feeling – he leaves it to you to figure it out. Simply class.

Jimmy Shergill - suavely sure
Jimmy Shergill: suavely sure


Me (finding a gap in my host’s renowned vocal prowess): Tushar Dalvi as the home minister and Uday Tikekar as a corrupt minister are both very good. As is young Vishesh Bansal.

AG: What about Irrfan?

IK: Chhota moonh badi baat….

NK: In this show, no baat, only bhaatukli

MR: Diplomacy is all about baat. Which is why, Dev Anand was the biggest diplomat.


MR: His favorite line was, “Kya baat hai, kya baat hai.”

(The stumped AG is quiet, and I jump in): Irrfan’s performance is simply one of his best. Ever. Period. The actor packs in so much of power and wallop throughout, he leaves you breathless in every frame. Note the scene where, in flashback, you see him at the hospital, confront his life’s biggest tragedy – his rising disbelief, his ratcheting anguish, his searing pain, and finally his breakdown, guts you completely. That scene is unbelievable. Also the scene where he gets the minister’s son to the hospital, then goes to the roof – his entire frame racked with helpless anger and energy, he paces, jumps, curses himself as his plan seems to go awry. He can’t figure out how to handle the barrage of emotions hitting him – another brave performance, that. His interaction with his hostage is nothing short of brilliant – he’s dry, sardonic, sometimes threatening, sometimes seemingly uncaring, but yet always at a level that’s relatable to a child.

Again, the climactic scene which takes place in a chawl room with a handful of people, as Irrfan begins to conduct his own court – the very idea seems ludicrous, even on paper. But the actor and director Kamat bring to it such a keen sense of intensity, it grips you and reveals sickening details that you knew all along. And with Irrfan’s simmering act that holds you and the scene together like a glue of credulity, you can’t look away. You’re stunned, moved, and shunned forever to despair.

Irrfan - a plan with no end
Irrfan: a plan with no end


IK: Shukriyaa….

Me (grabbing the opportunity to yap with both lips): Special mention to sound designer Kunal Sharma and team – Irrfan’s introduction scene, where he’s on a train, and the camera trolleys up to his seat, the clattering of the train, the squeaking of the berth chains, is so sharply recorded and mixed, you almost feel your body overcome with hunting oscillation.

And there’s some crisp editing by Aarif Sheikh – note the scene where Irrfan’s making an omelette and the movie traverses back; or, when Jimmy Shergill picks a photo off the wall, that’s preceded by another scene involving the photo – very neatly done.

Of the songs, Vishal Bharadwaj’s Dama Dama Dam is strictly serviceable. But the heart wrenching winner is Sunny Bawra-Inder Bawra’s Masoom Sa. It’s sung with compassion by Sukhwinder Singh, whose voice fills up the dam of your heart that’s sure to overflow when the song’s played in the end. The composers employ a sadly ominous cello to open the song, some soulful flutes, and an antara that takes you to the good old A.R. Rahman days of Tu hi re (Bombay).

IK: Antara se yaad aya, hamara mali kayi dinon se ghayab hai

Me: And Sameer Phaterpekar’s background score is very effective. I especially loved the clattering effect of sound thrills that he employs when Irrfan’s planning his next moves.

AG: Any final thoughts? It’s almost time to wrap up!!!!

MR: I hope this movie is not pirated across the border.

NK: Movie theatre madhe baghaa..

MR: It’s Wa..

AG: Irrfan!!! What about you?

IK: Syska koi nahin, uska to L.E.D hai yaaron..

AG: Thank you for throwing light on the matter. And YOU! FINAL THOUGHTS??!!!!!!

Me: Director Nishikant Kamat’s Madaari is not a picture perfect. There’s contrivances, there’s predictability, and there’s some incredulous scenes. But he makes you realize just how invested you are in the movie and in Irrfan’s character when a sniper takes aim at the latter at a bus station. And you feel anguish hitting you, as you realize that even the cinematic hope of deliverance could be wiped out any second now. And that’s why Madaari works – it poignantly drives home the tragedy behind all the man-made accidents that could have been prevented, had our politicians not mixed greed and deviousness into their dealings with builders; had they not made a wobbly infrastructure that threatens to come crashing down on the average tax-payer’s life, crushing his dreams and any semblance of a future in one shattering event.  The director and the movie make you go back to all the infrastructural collapses that were only news items to you, and put a haunting face of grievous loss to the headlines. Madaari forces you to look at the precariously malleable vox populi that’s more opinionated than informed these days. It makes you realize that public opinion is no longer based on reading up facts and discernment –  it’s based on the latest viral video circulating on the net and on your smartphone apps. Madaari is also a stunning look at how all political parties are in fact, the madaari, making us dance to their vicious tunes.

AG (swallowing hard with emotion, softly): Thank you, you. Thank you all for coming to this show and making it a good debate.

(Perking up again): Just one final question – what were the movie makers thinking, RELEASING THIS MOVIE ON THE SAME DAY AS KABALI? WHY? THE NATION WANTS TO KNOW!!!

Watch the trailer of Madaari here:

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