Says the director, "I know my producers would hate me for this. But I won't call Madras Cafe a mass entertainer. Of course it is an engaging thriller. But my film is targeted at an enlightened audience that has evolved over the recent years. I felt this was the right time to do this subject."
Shoojit says the Sri Lankan civil war as a part of his fictional scheme in Madras Cafe. "We have used the sensitive backdrop of the Tamil land and the issues that erupted. You may find some similarities between real political figures and characters and their counterpoint in my film. It's a political thriller. But you will find nuances and ideology of the rebel groups in Sri Lanka in my film. It deals with the civil war factor in Sri Lanka in the 1990s. We had originally titled it Jaffna. While scripting we changed it to Madras Cafe. The subject may be volatile for some people. I have been extremely cautious and sensitive. No one needs to be alarmed about my political sensitivities. Even Vicky Donor dealt with a sensitive subject. But if some people still choose to jump the gun, what can I do?"
Shoojit says Madras Cafe is a new beginning for political thrillers in India. "It is a first film of its kind. I did make a political film Yahaan earlier. But I've gone deep into the politics of the subject matter in Madras Cafe. It's not a film that plays it safe. It's the first film that so deeply explores the workings of the espionage service in the politics of a nation. The research was rigorous. But nowadays you get all the facts on the internet including pictures and government reports."
Shoojit couldn't shoot in Sri Lanka. "But a lot of South India matches the Sri Lankan hinterland. We shot everything in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. We shot some harrowing scenes of Civil War. We had never seen a Civil War. Only pictures and images. Shooting such scenes created an eerie feeling within us. Shooting the scenes of refugees from Sri Lanka heading towards India were so vivid, they were heartbreaking. There were choppers, and corpses and check posts…John and I were wondering what the real war must have been. In any civil war it is the civilians who suffer."
Shoojit had to spend a lot time in the political education of his lead pair John Abraham and Nargis Fakhri. "I had to make them understand the significance of the 25-year civil war in Sri Lanka. Nargis had to understand what a war correspondent is. I gave her google links to resource on the experiences of war correspondent. After that we began her acting workshop. Unless they understood the politics, the pain and the repercussions of a civil war where two countries are involved, they couldn't have done justice to their characters. This is not a film where actors memorize their lines on the sets. It wasn't an easy film to make."