Friday, August 23, 2013

Madras Cafe

Madras Cafe is a movie that is hard hitting in its portrayal of conflict in Sri Lanka and waves it created on political canvas of South Asia. This movie brings to fore a very old political adage "there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests". Although this movie does not boast big stars from Hindi film industry, most actors have done justice to their characters. Anyways, let us discuss about firearms used in Madras Cafe and my comments on them.

Weapons and equipment used by Indian Army in Madras Cafe (Indian Peace Keeping Force - IPKF)

Sea King Mk42 Helicopter

Sea King Helicopters are shown in many scenes throughout the movie. Surprising one was a Sea King flying near Kasuali in opening scenes. Sea King is a naval helicopter operated by Indian Navy. What naval Sea King was doing in land locked Kasauli is beyond me. Moreover Indian Navy didn't have enough number of Sea King helicopters to fly so many sorties in Sri Lanka and under threat of ground fire from LTTE once full-scale hostilities broke out. 
Sea King Squadron INAS 336 "Flaming Arrows" with children and staff of Evangel Ashram, Koonammavu  at their premises with a Sea King in background. Courtesy - Indian Navy
As an aside, Sea King has also starred in Yahaan along side Jimmy Shergill and Minissha Lamba. In Yahaan, Sea King was again found in most unlikely location - Srinagar. Since director of both Yahaan and Madras Cafe is Shoojit Sircar, it seems he is completely fascinated with Sea King. Indian Navy, are you listening. Dude might be interested in a midnight drop with MARCOS.

Unidentified Helicopters

At beginning of the movie when John starts with origin of Tamil struggle, there is a small scene portraying Jaffna University drop. In actual drop, 13th Sikh LI and 10th Para (SF) troops flew on Mi-8 helicopters of Indian Air Force. In real life helicopters landed amidst heavy fire and troops disembarked from the helicopters. In movie troops are shown slithering down from UH-60 'Black Hawk' helicopter during this scene. Please visit Descent Into Danger  - The Jaffna University Helidrop for a detailed description about Jaffna University raid.

Mi-8 of Indian Air Force. Courtesy - Bharat Rakshak
Movie also has some scenes where AH-64x Apache are shown. Indian armed forces have never operated this helicopter. But yes, they did operate attack helicopters in Sri Lanka. These were Mi-25 'Akbar' of Indian Air Force. Some of you might be familiar with this monster of a helicopter called Mi-24 from the movie Rambo III. Mi-25/35 happens to be export version of Mi-24. Similarly movie depicts that Indian troops fly in UH-60 Black Hawk to conduct a raid on Anna's base. This is absurd as Indian armed forces never operated Black Hawk. Interestingly Black Hawk might be only real world helicopter to have a featured in name of a movie. I am sure many of you have seen Black Hawk Down about an encounter between US forces and Somalian militia.

Upgraded Mi-25/35 of Indian Air Force. Courtesy - Bharat Rakshak

Machine Guns

In the sequence where John Abraham identifies location of Anna (LTF leader) and Indian troops attack his base, Indian soldier are depicted firing M-60. This is completely inaccurate as Indian Army has never used this weapon. M-60 machine gun was a standard General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) of US armed forces. Standard GPMG of Indian Army at that time was FN MAG and standard issue Light Machine Gun (LMG) was venerable 'Bren' gun from WW II.

Suniel Shetty firing a Bren gun in movie LOC Kargil. Courtesy - Internet Movie Firearms Data Base 

In couple of sequences, Indian troops are shown using what looked like AR-15/M16 family of rifles with scope. In reality Indian troops went in armed with full length 1A1 rifle popularly called SLR (Self Loading Rifle). This weapon based on FN FAL did not have a full-auto fire mode. It was a full-size battle rifle, well suited for plains and open areas, but cumbersome in jungles and built-up areas. As troops became familiar with their area of operations and guerrilla tactics employed by LTTE, they sawed of barrels of  SLRs and made changes to fire it in full-auto. This leveled the ground somewhat in firearms as LTTE was armed with AK (AK-47, AKM, Type 56, etc.) family of weapons capable of firing in full-auto providing high volume of fire. Some troops were also armed Sterling L2A1 Sub-Machine Gun (SMG). A number of troops also used AKs captured from LTTE fighters.

Firearms and equipment used by LTF in Madras Cafe (and LTTE in real life)


In some sequences, LTTE is shown using SLRs. This is accurate as LTTE was initially armed and supplied by RAW. Their initial weapons included SLR. A number of SLR were also captured during clashes with Indian Army. In one of the scenes, Anna is shown using a AR-15/M16 family weapon with a scope. This is accurate as leadership was issued M16 while rest of the troops relied on venerable AK-47, Type 56 (aka AK-56), AKM, etc. AR-15/M16 are believed to have been sourced from 'Golden Triangle' - an area that overlaps Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. AK family is preferred world over by 'freedom fighters' engaged in guerrilla warfare and terrorists alike. Primary reason for its popularity is virtually no maintenance requirement, easy availability of ammunition and rugged build quality. 

In weapon landing sequence, one of the fighters is shown using a SVD Dragunov. It is possible that LTTE fighters received Dragunovs as part of weapons cache or captured from Indian troops.

Indian Army sniper using SVD Dragunov. Courtesy - Bharat Rakshak
Before I end this post, I would like to thank John Abraham and his team for making this movie and wish them great success. Our generation needs to know about what our forces went through to protect civilians. It also serves as a reminder to our political class on how not to conduct foreign policy. Sri Lanka conflict took a heavy toll not only on Sinhalese and Tamils, but also on our armed forces due to loss of 1200 brave men. Not only did this conflict claimed Indian lives, but it also created turbulence in Indian politics and claimed life of our ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

I hope Bollywood takes notice of wars and battles fought by Indian armed forces and try to bring them to silver screen so that aam aadmi is reminded of sacrifices made by our real heroes. 

Jai Hind!


  1. Nice article. Looks like the Director got second-hand props from American studios :)

  2. liked your blog and topic,nice one.