'Madras Cafe is not a biopic on Rajiv Gandhi'
Filmmaker Shoojit Sircar’s first film Yahaan revolved around military operations in Kashmir. His second film Vicky Donor was on sperm donation and infertility. Now his third film Madras Cafe is a political espionage thriller based on Sri Lankan civil war, an issue which Indian cinema has never touched before.
“It is completely different experimentation after Vicky Donor. It also took so long to convince ourselves that the script could work,” says Shoojit. For him shooting a film on a civil war was undoubtedly the biggest challenge. Comparing it with Yahaan he says, “When Yahaan was released I got calls from many Army officers who praised my work and said that for the first time there is one film that has portrayed an Army officer in a true sense.”
This made Shoojit more cautious while shooting a civil war like situation for Madras Cafe. “Creating a civil war like situation for a film is a bit difficult. It has to be spontaneous yet real because in an ambush you don’t know from where the firing will start or when a grenade will explode. Creating that danger and then instilling fear in audience is a tough task,” explains Shoojit.
For this, the director had to muster courage while he was writing the script. “Initially while writing the script, I had to keep in mind the audience, especially those born after 1990, who are not aware of the subject or are least concerned about it. Secondly, we are not making a documentary drama, so the film needs to be engaging,” says Shoojit.
But as the film has been facing certain opposition from a pro-Tamil group claiming that the film depicts LTTE in a bad light, the director says, “When it comes to the sensitivity of the issue we have been very careful since the beginning. Be it dialogues, tonality or ideologies, it should not hurt sentiments of any sect in the country. We have to be politically correct because I know the line is very thin and we cannot be on the left or right side. We have to be somewhere in the middle.”
Not disagreeing with the fact that Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination is the plot of the film, Shoojit says, “There is a similarity because whatever we have read in the newspapers we have tried to highlight it in the same way. But the story revolving around it has been fictionalised. It’s not a biopic on Rajiv Gandhi but a work of fiction.”
Quiz him on which of his directed films has been difficult to make and Shoojit replies, “Vicky Donor, because I was dealing with the subject of sperm donation. People could have reacted in a different manner calling it a C-grade, vulgar and slapstick comedy film. Maintaining the sensitivity of the issue yet making the film entertaining was a