Review: Why I didn't like 'Madaari'

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Rated: 2.5 out of 5

It's been a few weeks since I've watched the Irrfan Khan starrer, Madaari.

Then, what has stopped me from writing a review soon after watching the movie?

Would you believe I was coming up with the words that would convey to you that I didn't like the movie?


Yes, you read that right. I didn't like Madaari.

The story of a man who kidnaps the son of the home minister of India in a poignant tale of vigilantism and justice for the loss of his own son?

Yes, that Madaari.

The same movie which boasts of the impeccable acting and dulcet tones of Irrfan in a role that you won't be able to picture anybody else playing?

Haan bhai haan - that Madaari.

The film that boldly reveals the underbelly of the corrupt Indian political system and shows an India so easily influenced by media?

Sigh, yes. The very same.

How could I not like such a realistic film like Madaari?!


Stop gasping and hear me out already!

... My expectations were too high.

Now you would imagine how I could have high expectations when I didn't even know who was in the movie until I actually lay back in the recliner seat of the movie theater. But I did. Why? Because it claimed to tell a realistic story. Not a real-life story, mind you, but a truthful tale of what happens in India today and has been happening for what seems like generations now. And that is a tall order.

Unfortunately, Madaari ended up filling the order in a very formulaic manner... and that was disappointing.

As per usual with such movies, the writers and directors pick subjects, serious controversial subjects, that people would find hard to disagree with.

And so, Madaari took that to heart and crammed in as much seriousness as possible, making it extremely difficult for anyone to say that they did not like the movie or disagree with any part of the story.

I shall explain.

Story of a kidnapped child: Not cool, brah. This is going to make me cry, isn't it? #serious  

The kidnapper's son was killed in a freak disaster: Bad people do things because bad things have happened to them. Sympathize please. An also serious by-product.  

The kidnapped child is the son of a corrupt politician: But of course. Corruption is the root of India's problem. Must be shown.  

The kidnapped child almost calls the kidnapper a pedophile: Extremely serious topic. If you were rubbing out some dust from your eyes however, you would miss it.

 The kidnapper used to be a single father for ten years: Single parenting is not a joke. Even if it is an unnecessary "serious subject" to add in. But hey.  

The kidnapper's wife left him after giving birth to their child: Haw! How could a mother "serious"ly do that?...another "serious" story arc that is just left hanging loose.  

The kidnapper's wife followed a different faith than him: This story arc already has an entire genre of Indian films but since it's such a "serious" topic, Madaari of course had to cover it. #RME  

The kidnapper's wife liked her job in videsh and so she left?: So many dialogues have been dedicated to the kidnapper's wife in the movie, ...yet she is this elusive character guarding all these parallel unexplained storylines. Also, note. She doesn't come back to India after her son dies? Oh-kay?  

Kidnapper thought of taking his own life after he lost his son: Another very real and serious angle to tackle in a tragic story such as this. This time though, if you blinked, you would miss it.  

Bring in the CBI chief, Jimmy Shergill, who only wants to do good in the world: Aha! That's why he is the CBI chief  

CBI chief is not corrupt or political: Yes! That's why he was appointed the CBI CHIEF #whysoserious  

But other national security agency heads, including RAW, are political and maybe corrupt too: Err... that's why they were...appointed? All very "serious" fodder to be added to the compost pit of the main storyline of corruption.  

The CBI chief alerts his forces that the kidnapper is a terrorist: The ultimate serious keyword but a necessary angle to the story. I shall allow it.  

The kidnapper's former job was to fix router and WiFi issues: So?  

After the kidnapping, he is a master hacker who can evade CBI whitehat hackers with ease: You didn't know? All computer engineers can do this stuff these days. #deadpan  

Arnab Goswami gets imitated and immortalized by Nitish Pandey to show the cliche of a TV newsman following a story: Of course, since Arnab only covers "serious" news stories.  

Every single Indian uses Facebook to "talk" to the kidnapper: #InternetIsEverywhereInIndia #TwitterAnyone?

 The 10 year old kidnapped child, Vishesh Bansal, explains to the middle-aged genius hacker-kidnapper that he has Stockholm syndrome: Also, an actual serious thing that people go through  

The kidnapper does some research and gets back to the kidnappee that he himself might be going through Stockholm syndrome too: Yay, google? #smh Story, story, story...some more seriousness...and cut to... The politician and the previously-unmentioned project managers are brought in under the threat of death to admit that they are corrupt and made some compromises that led to the disaster that killed the kidnapper's child. Oh...spoiler alert, by the way. #getoverit  

And then? 
What? You want to know what happens after? Well, you can't because that's where the movie ends in a supposably artsy mood.

All the unnecessary story arcs, almost ten minutes of unconnected news footage of things that are going wrong in the country, and scenes showing them move from one village to the other makes this movie a very long 2 hour 15 minute drama,... with unfortunately, little satisfaction and no moral dilemma.

Another thing I realized after ruminating on Madaari for weeks was that, the director and writers tried so hard to cover all the minutiae of tracking down a kidnapper, the ways in which corruption has seeped into society, and also covering all the above storylines, that they kinda got lost.

... Look. I may be cribbing about how Madaari's story unfolded but to be honest, there are some moments in this film that just hit you very hard and are absolute masterpieces.

Like, that scene in the hospital when Irrfan (as Nirmal Kumar) finds out that his son is dead. If I watched nothing else in the movie but that scene, this movie would have been an unequivocal 5/5. Even that scene when the kidnapped child (Vishesh Bansal as Rohan Goswami) keeps up a friendly conversation while Nirmal proceeds to tie him to a gas cylinder.

The screenplay here was brilliant and Vishesh's dialogue delivery was on point. And best of all, the dialogues in some places sounded like beautiful poems and needed Irrfan's or Jimmy's intonations to bring them to life.

You know what bothers me the most about this movie?

It's that they tried so hard to have all the elements of a good social drama that was rooted in current real problems in India that they forgot that reality is strange, unpredictable, awkward, stumbling for words and finds irony in tragedy.

So, though Madaari the film could have been the puppeteer that cut off the society's strings and kickstarted a crusade against corruption... It narrowly missed


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