Film: 'Madam Chief Minister'
Director: Subhash Kapoor
Cast: Richa Chadha, Saurabh Shukla, Manav Kaul and Akshay Oberoi
Stars: 2.5 out of 5
Bollywood actress Richa Chadha’s latest political drama ‘Madam Chief Minister’ is a nod to the adage: ‘Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
The eventful, but uneven film charts the rise of the polarising Dalit icon Tara (Chadha) addicted to helping her downtrodden community and herself — in that order.
The movie opens with Tara — a dowdy librarian having a clandestine affair with a rising young politician Indu Tripathi (Akshay Oberoi) — experiencing a violent rejection when she reveals that she’s pregnant with his child.
Her nasty boyfriend from an ‘upper caste’ gives her a crude lesson on caste and class. If that wasn’t clear enough, the entitled, privileged cad orders a bunch of ruffians to rough her up. But before the unwashed henchmen could get to her and commit yet another caste-based, gender-based crime, a senior Dalit activist (an on-point Saurabh Shukla) takes her under his wing and introduces her to the addictive world of politics and power.
Chadha quickly becomes his eager understudy, calls him ‘masterji’ and gets a crash course on caste-driven politics and discrimination. Her feistiness, her potty mouth and her ability to hold a crowd captive catapults her into the position as the leader of India’s most populous state.
While the chapter around the birth of the political heavyweight Tara is watchable, it’s what she does when in power that’s heady. The murky politics, the grand political alliances and power-brokering to retain control of her seat are the fun bits.
Barring her fake bob, Chadha is effective in the role of a power-hungry Dalit champion, who becomes the torchbearer for those in her downtrodden community. Like any good leader, she begins on a noble note, but is soon caught in tides of power.
Her idealism to change the world and make it a better place is replaced by a sense of megalomania and that shift is subtly shown in this film. Her character has an insane knack for turning any situation to her advantage. When she’s bedecked in diamonds for a rally — perhaps with tax payers’ money — she builds a narrative about how her poor background stands in the way of her getting decked up like her other elitist, high-class politicians. Her glib way of manipulating her poverty to suit her lavish lifestyle as a people’s leader of a poor state is adequately underlined.
Actor Manav Kaul as Khan, her political adviser and her sturdy husband, forms her perfect foil. Akshay Oberoi as her wicked ex-lover also makes his mark. He is sinister, but his evil acts require you to suspend one’s disbelief.
While all the players in this political potboiler are interesting, there are far too many events packed into this film. Towards the end, you may have a tough time keeping up with the betrayals and cross-enmity.
While the pace of this film is rapid, our interest soars and dips. There’s no denying that the parts featuring Chadha were the most intriguing. She doesn’t disappoint in the climax too, but I wish the makers had dwelt more on her grey sides than her altruism. The parts in which she channels her inner rage and frustration are the ones that make us sit up and take notice. Her penchant for giving rousing speeches like most Indian politicians is also noteworthy.
While the film begins with the disclaimer that Tara is a figment of the maker’s imagination and isn’t based on a real political figure, don’t beat yourself if you find yourself wondering if it’s loosely based on a popular real-life leader. Comparisons or no comparisons, the film, directed by Subhash Kapoor, makes for a decent one-time watch.
Don’t miss it!
‘Madam Chief Minister’ is out now in UAE cinemas.