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HindustanTimes Wed,27 Aug 2014

Madras Café too hot for some

Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustan Times  Chennai, August 21, 2013
First Published: 13:16 IST(21/8/2013) | Last Updated: 13:29 IST(21/8/2013)

After Kamal Hassan’s Viswaroopam and Vijay Thalaivaa, it is now the turn of the John Abraham starrer and Shoojit Sircar helmed Madras Café to face the flak in Tamil Nadu.

Some political groups in the State have sought a ban on the film, set to open on August 23.

While Viswaroopam provoked the ire of Muslim organisations, which felt that the movie portrayed their community in bad light, a hitherto unheard of political outfit raised objections to Thalaivaa being screened. Finally, it seemed that Thalaivaa’s tagline, Time to Lead, had offended Tamil Nadu’s ruling party. It was promptly removed, and the film opened in the State on Tuesday.

As far as Madras Café goes, the issue pertains to Sri Lankan Tamils that has always been a thorny question in Tamil Nadu, a State where Tamil chauvinism has been the bedrock of some of the Dravidian parties.

Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Naam Tamizhar have said that Madras Cafe must not be shown. This comes after it has been duly certified by the Central Board of Film Certification with an UA.

Abraham, who is also credited with producing that delightfully engaging Vicky Donor, might have said that he will not allow himself to be bullied, but in India, there is, shockingly, an extra-constitutional censoring authority whose destructive, strong-arm and on-the-street tactics have sometimes led to movies being withdrawn from theatres or not released at all. In some cases, shootings had to be cancelled, as we saw with Deepa Mehta’s Water in Varanasi, where some fundamental Hindu groups chased the director and her team out of the city.

Madras Café plots the story of an intelligence officer (Abraham) against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis and the assassination of India’s charismatic former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The title refers to an imaginary café in London where the conspiracy was said to have been hatched.

Both Sircar and Abraham have argued that the film is purely fictional, though inspired by real events.

However, Madras Café could not have come at a more appropriate time: the killers of Rajiv Gandhi who are now on the death row have been seeking pardon.

Be that as it may, one has seen in the past that this kind of controversy often helps a movie to up popular curiosity, and make the moolah in the first weekend. A film like Viswaroopam might have just crashed at the boxoffice had it not been for the storm it raised.

It is still too early to talk about Thalaivaa’s prospects, and, who knows, Madras Café may turn out to a super smash or a grand flop.

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