Art & Culture

Irrfan Khan is splendid, but too many plot lines spoil Madaari

Sushil Kumar
Sushil KumarJul 30, 2016 | 17:47

Irrfan Khan is splendid, but too many plot lines spoil Madaari

After watching Madaari, I came away with a question as to whether the main "madaari" – the director – missed a trick or two in making this film.

The movie attempts to buck the trend of basic Bollywood brand of film-making where single-themed narratives are linearly developed leading to a climax.

This film ambitiously mixes a medley of motifs, but to such an extent that till the interval, too many developing plot lines leave the viewer exasperated due to difficulty in identifying the dominant theme; and wondering whether s/he is watching a suspense film continuously unfolding.


The film ends on predictable lines leaving the viewer a little perplexed about the message; it comes at the end, over the end credits, not in a scene but in the accompanying song containing lyrics of  Faiz Ahmed Faiz's iconic poem, "Bol ke lab azaad hain tere".

The lyrics highlight the importance of raising one’s voice against the injustices of the system.

However, most miss this message, since by that time, viewers start strolling towards the exit, and Madaari’s tamasha is over without transmission of the message.

The film deals primarily with the helplessness and disillusionment of a revenge seeking anti-establishment protagonist – splendidly portrayed by Irrfan Khan – wronged by an impersonal and unjust system.

What better adversarial metaphor to use than Irrfan pitched as a quintessential common man (internet repairman) against the Union home minister – representing the highest and mightiest of the Indian State.

I feel film-makers are geniuses in devising plots in reel life when denied the freedom do so in real life – consider the deliberate allusion to real-life dilemmas sorrounding the decisions of Indian State when the daughter of then Union home minister was kidnapped in the '90s.


Perhaps, this time, CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani missed the plot within the plot and permitted the film to be premiered without causing any undue publicity.

The title is symbolic as there are two "madaaris" of the film: first, Irrfan Khan, who in the role of main protagonist acts as the main "madaari". He uses the mass media, especially television, to expose the actual sufferings and helplessness of a common man against an insensitive State.

The whole film moves on the solo performance of great Irrfan.

Irrfan’s character raises pertinent questions directly to the Indian State and wants immediate answers and solutions.

The home minister does argue that the system is indeed answerable in India’s parliamentary democracy, but it cannot possibly answer all 120 crore  individuals separately.

The other "madaari" is the director who has devised a drama depicting the metaphor – of the ruler and ruled – in a different way than a mainstream Bollywood films.

He has used the allegorical fight between the baaz (falcon) and the small bird (mirroring the classic metaphor of David versus Goliath) indicating that it feels great when the stronger gets the taste of his own medicine when the weakling wreaks revenge. That act of defiance is actual the victory of the weak, howsoever temporary.


The film touches on many core issues concerning common citizenry, such as all pervasive corruption, poor governance, institutional inefficiencies, weak accountability, and allegorically portrays  the Indian State as the baaz ready to pounce on a hapless citizen. 

Irrfan typifies an aggrieved individual seeking answers and accountability from the authorities which are mandated to act in public interest, but suffer from the prevalent practice of acting in private interest.

Though Jan Lok Pal movement is not directly mentioned, the dialogues are littered with words like "aam aadmi", "acchhey din", and  the film has montage containing real-life shots of candle-light vigils, protestors facing water canons, jumping police barricades and so on leaving little doubt about the source of inspiration .  

The film is bang on target when it uses the element of live a TV debate in the concluding scenes, mirroring the obsession of urban classes, and, in a way, affirming the stereotype of the Argumentative Indian.

People are now saturated with debates of party spokespersons and experts with pre-determined positions and want some quality debates on core issues of governance. Hence, this element touches the right chord with the audience.

The State’s deliberate manipulation of media through leaks is also mentioned and is obviously derived from the common man’s negative perception of government generated news. No wonder, the younger generation is getting increasingly ignorant of Doordarshan channels, when they rode the "waves" in the past without any question or competition.

The ever increasing and all encompassing embrace of social media is another element used in the film, and mirrors life in urban agglomerations where individuals and families are connected increasingly by internet and networks than by ties of kinship.

Social media is becoming the new tool of connectivity and is also a generator of public opinion, including mass hysteria often derived from misinformation and manipulation ( recently India Today TV’s sting operation showed how a fly-by-night IT company can manipulate information on social media for few bucks).

The potential of social media in making issues go viral in geometrical proportion and sometimes in even spreading hate virus ( remember north-east students panic migration in a southern state ) is well-known. However, this aspect would restrict the film’s appeal mostly to urban audience .

Interestingly, though the film deals with the death of a child, the protagonist’s trysts with the police in seeking justice are neither portrayed nor discussed, and the matter is taken directly by the Union home minister.

Understandably, the director chose to end the film with the arrest lest the film suffered from the accusation of being seditious . 

As one film-maker stated, the director should not weave too many strands in a story, as integrating them into a whole becomes a problem towards the end of the film.

As mentioned before, Madaari has many motifs, themes and endless questions. The last dialogue of the kidnapped child sums up the message of not accepting injustice and to  raise one’s voice in democracy sans delay so that apathy and indifference doesn’t set in.

Of course, the film is silent about any value judgement about the means adopted by the protagonist to prove a point.  

The film can give an impression of being of nihilistic, negational and vigilante justice orientation due to direct demolition of what the State stands for, but eventually comes around to surrendering to rule of law.

Summing up, the film uses the allegory of State being a madaari and creating an illusion for the masses, and then, a common man doing the same, again creating an illusion of an individual successfully taking on the might of the State through extra-constitutional means.

The whole film moves on the solo performance of great Irrfan – so much so that heroine is there for a few frames, and other characters appear to enhance his performance.

Last updated: July 31, 2016 | 21:13
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