Irrfan Khan plays a middle-class grieving father so angered by an apathetic, corrupt system, he shakes up the political echelons when he kidnaps the Home Minister’s son in Madaari.

This vigilante thriller, directed by Nishikant Kamat, requires considerable suspension of disbelief, but benefits from a compelling performance by Irrfan whose anguish is palpable even in the film’s most far-fetched scenes.
There are some nice moments between Irrfan’s character Nirmal and Vishesh Bansal who plays Rohan, the precocious 8-year-old he’s holding to ransom. But the filmmakers drown out all attempts at subtlety and nuance with a background score so deafening it shatters your eardrums.
Madaari sticks to a template similar to Neeraj Pandey’s Wednesday, but doesn’t drum up the same urgency. The cops, led by a solemn-faced Jimmy Shergill, find themselves engaged in a wild goose chase for Nirmal, but there’s very little tension to this battle of wits. Also, Kamat’s depiction of a landscape altered by social media engagement and public opinion is real but sloppily handled. That’s a shame because the film rightfully spurs the viewer to consider the ramifications of the alternate system the protagonist advocates – one that’s driven by popular public sentiment, vigilante justice, and kangaroo courts.
It doesn’t help that the supporting players are cardboard caricatures – from the bellowing news anchor to selfish politicians – and their acting is nothing to write home about. The film then rests squarely on the shoulders of its leading man to make up for its many shortcomings. Irrfan does the best he can with the given material, delivering moments of great poignancy while resisting the temptation to showboat. His breakdown scene in a hospital is especially heart-wrenching, and another one outside a government office where he reveals what he intends to do with a compensation cheque conveys the character’s pain without resorting to the usual tropes.
I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Madaari. Arguably one of the finest actors of our times, Irrfan Khan deserves films worthy of his talent. This one comes up short.

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