Shoojit Sircar on Madras Cafe
In 2012, director Shoojit Sircar took an unusual topic — sperm donation — and made an engaging comedy, Vicky Donor. The sleeper hit, co-produced by actor John Abraham, was the toast of all award ceremonies and was hailed as a triumph of a good story over the star power that rules Bollywood films.
Now he’s back, and has taken on a political thriller set against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war.
“Madras Cafe is a complete U-turn from Vicky Donor. I have just one request: don’t expect another Vicky Donor while watching Madras Cafe,” said Sircar in an interview with tabloid!.
Starring Abraham, the story is a tale of an Indian Army officer who’s handpicked for a covert mission to Sri Lanka to disrupt a rebel group. On Tuesday, the film was on schedule to release in the UAE this weekend, although protests were being held in Tamil Nadu seeking its ban.
“I want to tell everybody that I am a conscious filmmaker. My track record has shown me to handle sensitive issues. I am not here to hurt anybody’s sentiments nor am I here to sensationalise matters. Please don’t speculate until you see the film. Once you see it, we can have an open debate. I can assure you that I have not taken any side.”
His plea may fall on deaf ears, but three-films-old Sircar is convinced that the world will be introduced to a new Abraham with this venture. Abraham is undeniably one of Bollywood’s most attractive men, but often the length of his swimming trunks (or lack of them) is discussed more animatedly than his acting skills.
“We didn’t want him to look like eye candy. It was a concern for us and there were questions raised about his acting skills. I took him through briefings, research materials and workshops. As you know in my films, I am particular about my actors’ performance. John has evolved in this film. You will see a new John,” said Sircar. Abraham’s skills as an actor may have needed some polishing but as a producer he was sold on the idea of Madras Cafe right from the beginning.
“Many seasoned producers were not willing to produce Vicky Donor. But John was ready to go unconventional and think out-of-the-box. In Madras Cafe too, there’s no song and dance. But he still chose to go with it,” said Sircar. He set aside nearly six years of research to bring Madras Cafe to the big screen.
“Every single word the actors say is researched thoroughly. I realise I am on a thin line because we are dealing with two countries, two political scenarios. I was combing the net, government reports and books for six years to understand the situation,” said Sircar. The film, set in the 1980s Sri Lanka, was filmed mostly in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“If the viewers walk out of the theatre wishing to introspect about human life, then I have won. I want my films to spark introspection.” He’s already working on his next project, about Amitabh Bachchan.
“He’s one of the greatest living legends and idols. Now all my focus is on getting the script ready and presenting it to Mr Bachchan,” said Sircar.