Cast: Irrfan Khan, Jimmy Sheirgill, Vishesh Bansal
Director: Nishikant Kamat
Madaari is a testament to the talent of Irrfan – the Khan has been dropped. This predictable, inconsistent and implausible story would have completely collapsed with a lesser actor. But Irrfan glues it together with a potent blend of skill and screen presence. His sorrow is palpable and raw, like an open wound. When he cries, it’s so piercing that it almost makes you uncomfortable. And yet, he compels you to keep watching.
Here Irrfan breathes life into a cliché – the common man who suffers a gross injustice and then rises up against the system. You’ve seen this guy before – Akshay Kumar in Gabbar is Back, the gang of youngsters in Ungli and Rang De Basanti, most memorably Naseeruddin Shah in A Wednesday. Irrfan is Nirmal Kumar, a non-descript middle-class everyman. He describes himself as ‘the ideal voter’ because he is so embroiled in ‘roti, kapda aur makan’ that he never pays attention to the mess outside. His most unique trait is that he’s a single parent. Suddenly one day, his happy home is torn apart. He decides that he won’t rest until the criminals are found.
The script, by Ritesh Shah, is alternatively gripping and limp. The first hour is essentially a police procedural with the determined looking cop, played by Jimmy Shergill, looking for the kidnapped son of the home minister. Director Nishikant Kamath keeps the narrative tight and fast. But the carefully build up tension dilutes as soon as we hit a flashback. As the story unravels, the direction also becomes more heavy-handed. Each beat is underlined – there is a lot of talk about system pe gussa, corruption and aam aadmi. The scenes – several in roads, trains and busses – become repetitive. And the dialogue spells out exactly what you are seeing – so a character says about Nirmal – he is a vigilante who is trying to prove a point.
And then, just when your mind starts to wander, Ritesh, Nishikant and Irrfan serve up a climax that feels like a punch to the gut. Again, it’s fabulously implausible and populist. But it’s also strong and satisfying.
I also enjoyed Vishesh Bansal as the entitled and precocious son of the chief minister. But this is largely an Irrfan show and it’s always a pleasure to watch him.
I’m going with two and a half stars.