Madras Cafe is a 2013 Indian action drama by Shoojit Sircar.
With John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri and Rashi Khanna.
The film proved controversial in India as it is based on the Sri Lankan civil war where emotions are still running high. Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi died when an LTTE suicide bomber detonated a bomb at an election rally in May 1991. A similar
incident has been showcased in the film's trailer. However, the director explained that the film is only partially based on fact:
We have taken that incident which we read in the paper. Rest, whatever is around it, has been fictionalised in the scripting. But somewhere you may find some historical references in the fictionalised bit too.
Madras Cafe invoked the ire of Tamil activist groups Naam Tamizhar and MDMK. The members have sought a ban on the film contending that it portrays LTTE cadres as terrorists. Several court cases later, the film was released across India, however cinemas
in the state of Tamil Nadu refused to show the film.
Three major cinema companies in the U.K. decided not to screen Madras Cafe . The film was to have opened in the U.K. on August 28, 2013 in theatres owned by Cineworld, Odeon and Vue.
But on August 24, protests began outside the head office of these theatres, organised by Sri Lankan Tamil groups led by the Tamil Youth Organisation (U.K.). Carrying placards that said, Inciting violence is not entertainment, Ban Madras Cafe
, Ban hate speech , its members shouted slogans and burnt copies of the film's posters. The protests somehow managed to elude press coverage, despite the dramatic theatricals of posters being burned.
The anti-Madras Cafe campaign went on the Facebook page of the Tamil Youth Organisation. An online campaign called on Tamils to sign a petition against the film, and to telephone theatres to protest the screenings.
When the cinemas complied with this demand, exultant messages appeared on the page. The theatres played down the ban though, perhaps suggesting that they had little desire to oppose the censorship, and certainly didn't want to take it any further.
A senior executive from Odeon, in response to a question from The Hindu, merely said her company does not wish to cause any offence to any local community groups and hence took the decision. A Cineworld spokesperson was equally guarded. Our
policy is to show a wide range of films to different audiences. However, following customer feedback and after working with the film distributors, we have decided not to show Madras Cafe.
The issue then sank from public gaze, but a few voices have registered disquiet. It is hard to believe that we are living in a first world country, said a senior media industry executive who did not want to be named: A group of people
created a ruckus in front of Cineworld's offices, and the film is withdrawn! And neither does the U.K. government nor the Indian High Commission intervene.
Conversations with South Asian activists suggest that they did not want to get involved because they do not wish to mess with the pro-LTTE Tamil groups, which are well organised and militant.