I'm going to preface this by saying that I haven't seen the film and I have no desire to because it looks like a big snoozefest--an impression confirmed by a friend who shares my taste in these things.
But here are few things circling around my sleep-crusted brain.
1. If you want to talk "free speech," the film was not banned by anybody. Blame the corporate theater chains for wanting to avoid controversy, if that's your angle. But then we know theater chains are motivated by profits--would they have bothered to not screen the film if it looked like people would really like it? Probably not. So, should theater chains be forced to screen films that will not earn them much and cause a huge controversy? You tell me what the answer is--a single government mandated "free speech" screen in every theater? Madras Cafe aside, there are plenty of controversial, unpopular films that I would have loved to have seen screened at a comfy multiplex.
My personal position on free speech is this: People should obviously be allowed to say WHATEVER they want to but it doesn't follow that we all have to listen. Free speech means the person making the pro-Nazi film also gets a seat at the table. Never forget that.
2. If you want to talk "political films," the question becomes thornier. What politics are you talking about? And is it fair that one side of an argument gets a huge bully pulpit to speak from without equal time to the other side? When it comes to things like depicting REAL historical events, filmmakers always simplify to compress complex narratives into a 2-3 hour story. The result can be entertaining but is generally ALWAYS terrible history. Again, I can't speak to Madras Cafe but I can and have ranted about films like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty's bullshit history and politics before.
Look, I live and work in Washington, D.C. and I have seen A LOT of politics up close and personal and let me tell you that 99.9% of filmmakers have no clue how government really works. Their films are embarrassing to watch and become even more embarrassing when people take it as fact that this is how things happened.
Conspiracy theories, over-simplification of complex events, justification of atrocities, lionization of historical figures... really? We need all of this in our movie theaters? How about teaching more history in the classrooms instead?
I'm certainly not advocating only for so-called "brainless" films nor do I think that filmmakers can't have a point of view or talk about real world events but... BUT beware of historians and journalists and interest groups coming to pick apart your film if you want to claim the guise of "realism" or "historical". They get free speech, too, you know.
Of course, it's all moot if you make a snoozefest of a film and nobody goes to see it anyways.
The best political films, in my opinion, are ones like 3 Idiots. Films that talk to people about things that matter to them; films that people want to see. Because if the best argument for something like Madras Cafe is that it's "realistic" and "political," then I can't feel too passionate about some corporate chains deciding not to screen it. Who is this so-called history aimed at, anyways? Who is this conversation with? What was the point? To drag some dirty bit of business back into the public consciousness? Why? Because to my eye, it seems more like Blood Diamond--a film to make some comfortable middle-class types feel virtuous until the film ends, forgetting everything they'd just seen.
A TV actress was assaulted in Mumbai. All these attacks are really scary...
Speaking of, Tinu Verma has gone into hiding.
Moher Basu has a nicely reasoned take on the 100--now 200?--Crore Club over at Koimoi.
The most celebrated films of Bollywood have been underrated at box office. In the end, it is the films that linger on in our memories. Chennai Express might rake up way more than 3 Idiots in the domestic circuit, but when one has to name the most memorable films of the decade, it wouldn’t even stand a chance. Human brain is thus, in the long run it manages to dissipate the fragile and remember the strong. When it comes to cinema, the best of films are the only ones that sustain over the content drained, quick hefty earners, that fail to carve a place!
It's the difference between a Ready and a 3 Idiots but it's impossible to tell which is which until much later... we can't say how Chennai Express will be remembered yet. A swan song for King Khan? A new innings for the Badshaah? It's impossible to say just yet. Obviously, I would love if his media saturation strategy would backfire but, alas, it seems that kind of thing is here to stay.
On a lighter note, enjoy a slide show of photos from Lakme Fashion week. WTF is that outfit Piggy is wearing?! And Nargis needs to just GTFO my screen at all times. It's all about Lolo and Sonali Bendre on this slideshow.
Is it Kat for Ranbir and Anurag Basu's Jagga Jasoos?