Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 23rd August, 2013
Time : 130 minutes
Director : Shoojit Sircar; Writer : Somnath Dey, Shubhendu Bhattacharya; Music : Shantanu Moitra
Starring : John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri, Siddharth Basu, Prakash Belawadi, Piyush Pandey, Rashi Khanna, Ajay Rathnam, Sanjay Gurbaxani, Kannan Arunachalam
There is an honesty in this film, a commendable effort to stay true to its genre, lacking in several other films. The hero here doesn’t suddenly become a superhero or a killing machine, doesn’t take his revenge by stripping off his shirt and bloodying all those in his vicinity. When things don’t go his way, he doesn’t start a private war or indulge in heavy dialogues. And the war in Sri Lanka never gives way to romance or sizzling songs in lush jungles. Oh, and there is not a single item number. Not even in the end credits.
Its about the war in Sri Lanka, through the 80’s and 90’s as India struggled via its ill-conceived IPKF (Peace-Keeping Force) to bring peace to its neighbouring emerald isle, in the battle between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Landing into this arena is John Abraham, playing a RAW agent, who has to sort out friends and foes amongst his boss, Prakash Belawadi, his super-boss, Siddharth Basu, the Ajay Rathnam led violent guerilla separatist forces, the political solution favouring faction led by Kannan and Nargis Fakhri, a war correspondent from London.
Slightly fictionalized but taking real events as its base, the film moves at a decent clip, shifts locales, from lush jungles, butterfly fishing nets, concrete blocks and island hideaways. There are a few twists and turns, the action moves between Lanka and India, there are personal losses suffered, there is a change of stance too often in the corridors of power in India and soon, there is a tangible threat to someone important in India.
What doesn’t work that well is that the twists are predictable, given away before hand. The story of politics, betrayal, vested interests and changing stances has been seen before. So, while the film is gripping, interesting, there is a little bit of ‘whats new here storywise?’ going through your mind.
The acting is excellent throughout, right from John, who immerses himself into the character, to Prakash, Siddharth, Ajay and also a lovely cameo from Piyush Pandey. Nargis has a small part but she fits into her role well. The huge ensemble cast also does well, supporting the leads at all times.
The contrast between the Tamils shown in Chennai Express and the ones shown here cannot be imagined. What works in this film is keeping things real. Showing the ugly side of war. Showing how the wheeler-dealers always survive. The developed countries instigate trouble, playing both sides, just to keep arms sales up. And how the first line of casualty, the real sufferers are always the common man….