Movie Review: Madaari

The writer of Madaari is Shailja Kejriwal, and screenplay and dialogues are by Ritesh Shah. The movie stars Irrfan Khan as Nirmal Kumar – A lead character, Jimmy Sheirgill as Nachiket Verma – A Cop (CBI), Vishesh Bansal as Rohan Goswami – Son of Home Minister and Tushar Dalvi as Prashant Goswami – the Home Minister. There are several other good characters in the movie. One of them worth mentioning is Jitendra Gupta playing Nimbadkar, another politician (minister’s secretary). The subtitle of the movie is quite revealing: Desh so raha hai (The country is sleeping). Truth.

The movie starts with the wild fire news of kidnapping of the Home Minister’s son. It is followed by snippets of news videos where the citizens of India are complaining. They are heard complaining to the government about their problems and pleading them to show up. They expect the government to solve many problems faced by them, more often on daily basis. They are shown standing with banners; and irrespective of the political party in rule, asking their rulers, “Where are you?”

The movie is about a single father, Nirmal Kumar, of a 7 year old son who dies in an accident where a bridge collapses in a busy area and takes several lives. He is a sound computer technician and financially struggling individual. His world falls apart completely as his only family, his son, is no more. He mourns for long for his dead son. He reaches a state where he sees nothing more left in his life and decides to end it. But in that moment, he instead decides to avenge his son’s death.

He doesn’t have any hope for justice from the hopeless system of democracy. He doesn’t know why the system is like that. He wants answers. He starts gathering clues and plans kidnapping of Home Minister’s son to get his answers. He kidnaps minister’s son and the game of ‘Madaari’ begins.

An able CBI cop, Nachiket Verma, is handed the case to bring the Minister’s son back. He is supposed to work in co-ordination with NIA and RAW. There is a meeting scene where Nimbadkar meets Director of NIA and respective chiefs of NIA and RAW. They argue why such an important case is being handed over to a much junior, Joint-Director rank officer of CBI, at the cost of experienced ones. Nimbadkar says, “We need a party loyalist at present. And Nachiket is not a useless fellow. He was a very capable officer when he was in police. Look, in politics, the election ticket is given on the basis of Caste and Case on the basis of capacity (Aukaat). Only he will lead this case.”

While they struggle to find out the whereabouts of kidnappers, there is a different drill carried out on the political side. The drill to suppress the news of the kidnap which would spoil the public reputation of the minister, ruling party and the agencies involved. They fear of loss of trust and thereby support of the people; the utmost important thing necessary to rule in Democracy. Politicians and bureaucrats gather in the garden to figure out ways to suppress this news and handle news reporters and opposition who might take undue advantage of the situation for the lust of unaccountable power to rule, exploit, eradicate and dictate everyone (resisters and supporters) and facilitate, serve and enrich those who comply.

Some of the members of the party think it’s a terrorist act. Nimbadkar handles opposition leader in a disguised threatening tone that, “You can make an issue of it blaming the ruling party that ‘If they are not able to take care of their own child, how will they take care of us!’. But keep in mind that we are all naked in the bath! We are worried at present. You need to understand the sensitive situation.You are well aware of how low we can go. Right?”. There is another minister handling media by saying that “In National interest, ask them to inform that there has been no such incident. It’s all a rumor”. Suddenly one of them says “may be some political rival did this …”. Nimbadkar interrupts, cutting the conversation, saying, “No No. A dog doesn’t eat another dog”!

Nachiket advises to suppress the whole issue from press/media, police alert or any such thing that might create panic among kidnappers and force them to kill the boy. He is then aboard a chopper to the boarding school where kidnapping took place. This is where Nachiket’s assistant asks him whether he thinks it’s a ‘mistake in identity’? Nachiket replies, “If it’s not a mistake then it will have very bad consequences. Citizens are okay with their kids being kidnapped. They consider it as their ill fate and suffer through it. But if they get to know that Home Minister’s kid is kidnapped, they will start thinking that there is no law and order. People don’t expect ‘rulers to have commoners’ fate. They would stop respecting the government if this happens.”

Meanwhile Nirmal is skipping places with the kid in an effort to not get caught. He is successful so far in not getting traced. But now that he wants his work to be done, he makes an indirect contact over phone with Home minister. He tells him to stop trying to find him, and that he too lost his son in a recent accident. Now he wants the government to make real efforts to find out that accident, the reason why it occurred and punish the culprits.

Now that a clue is given by the kidnapper himself, Nachiket and his colleagues begin all kinds of efforts to figure out the accident. Nachiket tells his assistant that, “It’s going to be tough ahead. The man lost his son in a corruption based tragedy and via this kidnap he wants to teach a lesson. If we figure out the tragedy, we get the man”. On the other side, irritated by the helplessness, ruled by the ego and advised by nincompoops, the home minister tells Nachiket that they need to show the kidnapper who is the boss. He wants to deploy an army to get his son back. Nachiket advises against it and instead asks permission to investigate the tragedy which would lead him to the kidnapper.

Nirmal keeps shifting places and meanwhile there are interesting conversations between him and the kidnapped boy. He doesn’t let the boy talk to his mother. He is very careful when dealing with the boy because his wrath is against someone else and the boy is just a medium. Nachiket informs to spread the news that a terrorist is running around with a kid as his cover. Nirmal is fed up with this hide and seek game. He puts his story on the internet and people finally know about the kidnapping of home minister’s son. They support Nirmal in his cause against the administrators. Home minister is advised to talk to Information and Broadcast minister to block the viral video of Nirmal that is quickly gaining support and sympathy of the otherwise deluded citizen.

Thoughts keep swinging in Nirmals mind. He breaks down in front of the kid and rants that he should never have started all these. He should have just kidnapped the child and disappeared. He decides to end all these. He calls the minister to ask him whether they have found out the culprit. Minister threatens him to end the mayhem. Nirmal gets provoked and then minister tells him that there is a process for knowing who the culprit is and what would his punishment be. He also tells Nirmal that he will get justice but it will take time. He says, “We function according to the laws and not under the influence for people and press/media and if we don’t, people have right to change us.” To this Nirmal gets irritated and tells, “Change when? After 5 years when everything is ruined and you have prospered beyond means?” Nirmal says that it is their accountability and responsibility…. Nirmal is cut-off by the Home Minister’s aide Nimbadkar and he says, “What responsibility is he talking about? ‘Answerable to the people’ is just a figure of speech. Yes there is responsibility but in the assembly and on election ground. They cannot talk to everyone individual and explain. Who will handle the country? We are like those doctors who do not stop their practice if 1 or 2 of their patients die.” Then Nirmal asks him whether they tell this thing before they ask for votes from the people? In the end the Minister tells Nirmal to gather at a common ground, Jantar Mantar, and discuss it all out in open public court. Nirmal agrees to it and informs the mass via internet.

The stage is set to meet openly and all the agencies are deployed to hunt down Nirmal. After all he has created ruckus, damaged the political position of the Home Minister and the ruling party and, most of all, dared to challenge the authority!

He reaches there, gets down the bus with the kid, gets shot and dies. That is one end. There is another, more interesting, end.

The story rolls back to the stage where Nirmal is about to board the bus. Instead of going to the decided venue, Nirmal changes the plan and goes to his home. He then calls on a live TV show and informs the host that he is in his house and he needs officials to answer him there. To reveal the truth of the system he asks the host to be there with his camera and summons the Home Minister, Nimbadkar, owner of the construction company, building contractor and structural engineer of the bridge that collapsed killing his son.

He is prepared for the end game and ties the kid on a gas cylinder. Everyone arrives. Nirmal asks questions starting with the engineer who promptly replies that there were many negligence like sub-standard material, poor column support, haste and no vehicular traffic calculations. He asks contractor and he just says, we made a mistake. The owner says he had to bribe everyone. Nimbadkar agrees to taking huge bribe for himself and for the party fund. He then turns to the Home Minister and asks whether he and his party took bribe for the bridge that collapsed. After getting threatened with a gun, the minister starts telling the truth of how democratic government in India (and everywhere else) functions.

He says, “The Truth is scary. It will shake the very soul of everyone. Government is corrupt by some mistake is not true. Government is only for corruption is the truth. Most of the impossible sounding amount of money actually does exist! Many of us have it. It’s been divided between all. Opposition parties are all partners in this. There are no scams actually. Accumulating wealth is the primary business of governments. We also do lot of things to please people. We wear uniforms! Have you seen anyone of us wearing jeans? And we also go to the parliament and discuss things, address people for votes and give speeches. We sideline those who are good and honest; they are just useful idiots. Power is in the hands of those who can make money for all. By the way, it is peoples’ fault. We show you day-dreams but you are the ones who believe us every time ignoring the truth. We are the first ones to know where the road will be built so we purchase the surrounding land from the government and then resell it to government making big profit out of it. This is the primary business and it is not going to shut down. Police and constitution is just to scare the people.”

Minister asks Nirmal whether now he is happy with the answers?! Nirmal says, “I have nothing to gain from this. Everything I had is lost. But for those people who are listening and watching this; not today or tomorrow but in future may be they will do something …” Then he calmly tells everyone present in the room to just leave and releases the kid. Nirmal is then arrested, and the movie ends.

There are very few mainstream Bollywood movies where the true scandalous nature of the government, the opposition parties and the entire political system is exposed like in Madaari. This movie obviously didn’t do well on the box office because the Indian public lacks the deep political sense to understand such stories and message. Irrfan Khan is a treat to watch playing the role of Nirmal. It needs guts to play such role. Guts because activists, press reporters, whistle blowers and honest men and women are not the only ones being assassinated in India for speaking Truth to the power.

The message from the movie is clear: the State and governments ruling in its name are there for corruption only. It doesn’t matter which wolf is elected every five years, citizen sheep will be fleeced.

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