By Subhash K. Jha 

Madaari – Director: Nishikant Kamat; Cast: Irrfan Khan, Jimmy Sheirgill, Vishesh Bansal; Rating: ****

“Madaari” is not the first film that raises the burning issue of corruption by espousing vigilantism. But “Madaari” moves you to tears. I had to watch it twice on two successive days to absorb the immensity of Nishikant Kamat’s treatise that — and I quote from the film’s stunning climax — “Corruption is not part of our political system, our political system exists for corruption”.

With brilliant impunity, “Madaari” builds a case for self-justice when all systems collapse and you’ve nowhere to go but to your conscience to escape the feeling of complete annihilation. One such bereft inconsolable soul is Nirmal Kumar who has lost his son to corruption.

Somewhere in the middle of the saga of this one man’s plea for justice, we see Nirmal in an emptied-out hospital corridor grieving for his suddenly-dead son.

Irrfan makes this moment so effortlessly intense, so brimming with a fluent angst…we are not watching a brilliant actor at work.

We are not even watching a father mourn for son’s demise. No.

We sit there watching Irrfan lament for every person who has lost out to an irreversibly corrupt political system.

On the surface, “Madaari” is just a slick cat-and-mouse chase saga about a vigilante and a police official (Jimmy Sheirgill, as usual effortless). But scratch the surface.

What we get are some of the most thought provoking dialogues on the rot in present day politicking herd since Javed Akhtar penned a pained political parable in “Main Azaad Hoon”.

Yes, the political system has failed us. So what are we doing about it? “Madaari” doesn’t have a solution to the monstrous imbroglio that shrouds the common man’s hopes, dreams and aspirations. But it does tell us that simply sitting around waiting for a miracle to change the political system won’t happen.

The cleansing process is wonderfully executed in “Madaari”.

Kamat’s film is not only provocative and evocative, it’s also very cleverly put together. The editing (by Aarif Shaikh) creates a special affinity between the wounds of time and the processes of everyday existence which cruelly wash away the tears of the wounded.

By adopting a brisk attitude, the bereavement “Madaari” tells us that we can’t sit and grieve indefinitely for our losses. We have to seek redress on our own. This is the subliminal thesis that thunders across the gracefully paced film which never sacrifices its sensitivities to appear to be a stylish thriller.

Stylish and thrilling, “Madaari” certainly is. Cinematographer Avinash Arun films the two sets of characters – the aggrieved and the aggressors – using almost antithetical colour palettes and moods.

As Irrfan and the little boy move across various differing locations, we see the changes in the topography almost as signs of the growing relationship between the host and the hostage.

It is easy to miss the film’s deep-seated passion to extract powerful emotions from situations that have been milked to maudlin death in our cinema. Overcoming its clichéd karma, “Madaari” still moves us, sometimes to tears.

The bonding which grows between the kidnapper and the little boy is played out with a heart-warming blend of paternal emotions and a convivial kinship. The little boy Vishesh Bansal, who plays the kidnap victim, brings much wisdom and understanding to his part, so much so that when he tells his kidnapper at the end that he knows what the bereaved father was trying to do we see that look of enlightenment in the boy’s eyes.

As for Irrfan, what can one say about an actor who forgets to act? So real palpable and urgent is the father’s grief that we are no more looking at a brilliant and skilful actor at work but a father mourning for the loss of innocence.

At the end, we see Nirmal standing in a seashore washing his son’s memories. We hope that the message which he brings to us remains with us.

Yes, the politicians come across as caricatures. “Madaari” doesn’t offer a formula to eradicate corruption in politics. But it does tell us why we need to fight back before it’s too late.

“Madaari” released on July 20.

feature image – Actor Irrfan Khan and filmmaker Nishikant Kamat during the special screening of the film Madaari, in Mumbai on July 19, 2016.

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