Joined: 30 August 2009
Joined: 20 October 2010
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Cast: Pankaj Kapur, Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma
Vishal Bhardwaj has often served us with offbeat and interesting cinema. So even with a title like Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola which doesn't make much of semantic sense, you expect an eccentric and entertaining film. Unfortunately, the film is as contrived and manipulated as its title.
Having its roots in the age-old seed of peasant versus capitalism conflict, while the problem might still be pertinent today, the satirical treatment and ridiculous resolution that the film opts for is far from influential or exciting. And somewhere between this Maoist movement, the director suddenly realizes that the heroine remains underutilized and so a languid love story is inserted intermittently. A bride running away from her wedding pheras (rather making the groom run this time) is the last thing you expect from the climax of a Vishal Bharadwaj film!
Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) is a capitalist when sober and socialist when drunk. Matru (Imran Khan) is Mandola's sidekick by the day and a Maoist Robin Hood for the poverty-struck peasants by the night. Mandola's daughter Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) is engaged to Badal (Arya Babbar) whose politician mother (Shabana Azmi) is eyeing Madola's assets for her party funds. This fragile framework pretty much forms the plotline of the film.
Right from the opening sequence where an inebriated Mandola ludicrously leads a village rally against himself, Vishal Bharadwaj attempts to impart a deliberately different shade to the film. A stunningAnushka Sharma surfacing from a murky village pool might make for a gimmicky entry scene but it adds no value to her characterization or the chronicle. Also she is certainly not a big fish in a small pond here. Moreover the tone of humour, though largely different from usual Bollywood fare, tries too hard to make an impact. However the dry wit falls flat at most instances. There is no drollness in watching African Zulu tribe members dancing in the background. And hallucinations of a pink buffalo are only occasionally amusing.
Pretty much nothing happens in the stagnant first half and by interval the viewer seems quite uncertain as to where the film is leading. A farmer revolution takes precedence in the second half as Matru's alter-ego, Mao guides the villagers. But their methods are so convenient and unintelligent that you wonder what's going on! And when the writers realize there is practically no way out of industrialization issues that the film primarily tackles, they expediently change tracks to culminate the narrative into a love story.
The pace is intentionally slow and scenes are purposely protracted, adding to the synthetic shade of the film. Beyond his grungy look, there is nothing rustic about Imran Khan who also often switches accents. While Bharadwaj often comes up with original and attention-grabbing dialogues in accordance with the countryside setting of his films, here he remains in comfort zone and the Haryanvi flavour is restricted to the formulaic bawdi to bhootni ke nuances. And with the love story resorting to cliches galore, the chemistry between Imran and Anushka is palpably missing. Even the mandatory smooch scene doesn't help.
The immensely talented Pankaj Kapur seems over-prepared for his character here and adds extra intensity that often goes in theatrical zone. Yet he is far more dependable than the other two title characters. Imran Khan is one-dimensional and his character, too, is clearly half-baked. Anushka Sharma doesn't get much scope here and is often over-expressive. Arya Babbar is supposed to act like a buffoon and is awfully irritating. Even Shabana Azmi can't save the sinking ship.
Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola comes across as a wannabe attempt by Vishal Bharadwaj. His most disappointing and uninspiring work!
Joined: 26 July 2007
Joined: 26 July 2007
by Vivek Kaul14 mins ago
Spoiler Alert: While I have tried to reveal as little as possible about the movie, but then its four in the morning as I write this, and I am sleepy and there might be some spoilers that may have slipped in.
When Zee TV was launched in the early 1990s, I loved it for the fact that it ran interviews with film stars almost on a daily basis. For a generation who had grown up watching krishi darshan for entertainment, star interviews were fascinating. But the interviews soon got very boring. Most of the answers were dull, boring and repetitive, like the Hindi cinema of the 1990s.
The one answer that really got me irritated during those days was "It's a very different kind of film." In the annals of Hindi cinema a different movie is a movie which has already been made before. I still cringe when directors or actors say "bahut hatke picture hai", or anything along those lines.
Directors who do make hatke pictures do not need to go around telling the world that their movie is a little hatke. Vishal Bhardwaj is one such director and his latest movie Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola (MKBKM) falls into that category. It is genuinely hatke. The only fair comparison I can make is with the 1983 comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (JBDY).
In a country which has basically two genres of film making, one being the boy finally meets girl genre, and the other being the angry young man who beats up the villain and finally gets the girl genre, it takes a lot of courage, commitment and knowledge to come up with what Bhardwaj and his team have been able to do with MKBKM. It is much easier to make a Rs 100 crore movie.
Cinema in India is not expected to tackle serious issues. And when it does it is not supposed to be entertaining. MKBKM beats that myth. The movie is full of contemporary issues that plague India. From politicians and industrialists conniving to take over the land of farmers to build special economic zones (SEZs), farmers under debt to the agri procurement system being in a mess, bureaucrats who have sold out to honour killings and to the oft asked question of when will the revolution come?
It also has an aggressive ambitious female politician and her useless son, on whom all the hope rests. And then there is also a gulabi bhains, a real first in the history of Hindi cinema, where a pink buffalo has a pivotal role in taking the story forward. Despite its serious undertones, MKBKM is a political satire which is a two and a half hour laugh riot like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron was before it. Released in 1983, JBDY started slow and found its audience over the years and is now one of the biggest hits on DVD. I hope MKBKM finds it audience much more quickly. It really deserves it.
Pankaj Kapoor gives the finest performance of his life in what is his first mainstream lead role. How many actors in their sixties (other than Bachchan and Naseeruddin Shan once in a while) get a lead role in the first place? Kapoor pulls off his dual faced performance with absolute panache.
The Bandra boy Imran Khan looks the rustic Haryanvi that he plays and does enough to take over the crown of the thinking woman's sex symbol from the actor who now calls himself just Irrfan. And Anushka Sharma adds glamour to the entire equation. She also most probably becomes the first mainstream Hindi film heroine to mouth everybody's favourite cuss word "b******d" and does it several times (Okay now don't tell me Seema Biswas did that first in Bandit Queen. I know; I saw that movie, first day first show at Welfare Cinema in Ranchi. Two days later it was banned. And I saw it once again after the ban was lifted).
Shabana Azmi stands out in a small but a pivotal role. And she also has the scene which has the crux of the film and at the same time explains in a couple of minutes all that has been wrong with India since Independence. That scene on its own is a total paisa vasool for the movie.
The writing of the film is what makes it the classic that it will eventually become. To be able to deal with so many 'serious' issues plaguing India today and do it in a funny way, takes some doing. So take a bow Abhishek Chaubey and Vishal Bhardwaj. The dialogues by Vishal Bhardwaj are fantastic and there is a particular one in reference to a certain industrialist that you guys need to definitely watch out for (Okay sorry about this spoiler, but I just couldn't help it).
Gulzar as always is in fine form writing the lyrics for the movie. Some of Gulzar's best lines get written for the movies that Vishal Bhardwaj makes. The 2009 release Kaminey had the line "masoom sa kabootar naacha to mor nikla". In MKBKM he matches that with "Jo nahi kiya, kar ke dekhna, saans rok ke, mar ke dekhna, yeh bewajah, be sabab, khamkha nahi."
On the flip side the movie has too many cuss words (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and thus is likely to keep the family audiences away. They can obviously let their sons watch Kareena Kapoor singing "Main to tandoori murgi hoon yaar, gatak le mujhe alcohol se". And they can let their daughters enjoy the misogynistic jokes in Khiladi 786 (or was it Rowdy Rathore, all Akshay Kumar movies look the same these days). The cuss words though are definitely not good for the children.
As for me as I leave the theatre I find myself humming "gulbai bhains jo teri dekhi'". I see pink buffaloes everywhere. The Worli Seaface is full of them.
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He can be reached at vivek.kaul@
Joined: 26 July 2007
Without warning, there is an accident. Then, a flashback: to ten minutes earlier. A flashback which explains, nearly in realtime, how the accident comes to be. Why, then, did we not directly start from the flashback? Because Vishal said so.
Vishal Bhardwaj's latest film delights in its own impish, impromptu absurdity. There is much daftness in this oddly titled Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, a cock-and-pink-buffalo story that stays surreal even at its most satirical. It's theatrical, insightful, wickedly clever and, often, too funny to even laugh at, if you know what I mean. It is also, as may be apparent, an utterly random movie, sometimes jarringly uneven and frequently meandering. And yet it works, because it is, at every single step, unexpected and surprising.
Even the most seemingly slapdash of scenes appears magical when the work of a master is evident. This film swings with two sultans, each spurring the other on toward a sillier spectacle, a sight of grand lunacy. Bhardwaj more than handles his end — heaping on wordplay and quirk and texture — but the Quixote in the other corner is even wilder: Pankaj Kapur, who carries the film with smiles and slurs. Together, this jesting juggalbandi provides a rare treat: a legendary actor rolling up his sleeves and a director giving him miles of room in which to conjure. Forget Matru and Bijlee, in Mandola lies the magic.
Technically, though, the whole film lies in Mandola. It's set in a fictive Haryana village of the same name, a name it shares with its only wealthy resident, a land-hungry tyrant played by Kapur. And while he squeezes farmers dry by day, a few stiff drinks invariably bring out his inner socialist: it's a regular Dr Jekyll and Comrade Hyde. A drunken Mandola even leads the oppressed masses to revolt against himself, but isn't at all amused once he regains his wits.
It is a peculiar universe populated by many a weirdo, and akes a while to settle in. One on hand is Mandola's canny driver, Matru, (Imran Khan) who indulgently leads his master toward drink, clearly fond of the sloshed socialist within. On the other is Bijli, (Anushka Sharma) the tyrant's daughter, an over-kohl'd drama queen eager enough to marry into money. There are farmers hunting for Mao to guide them, and sycophantic policemen who collude gladly with a scheming politician (Shabana Azmi). And being set in the laconic state of Haryana, the humour is dryer and flatter than usually seen in a farce: the laughs may not come easy, but it's hard not to keep grinning.
But it's not all snorts and chortles. Behind the beguiling buffoonery and unrestrained slapstick lie deeper points, about how barren fields can be more profitable than lush ones, about how politicos justify self-interest by hailing it as another form of altruism, about the way even rain can be co-opted as a farmer's greatest foe. Why, in one unforgettable moment, glasses are raised and, instead of the often-mispronounced 'chairs' for 'cheers,' the politician raises her drink with a cry for actual seats of power. 'Kursiyaan!'
There is much this film says, about Special Economic Zones and the development myth, and with that subject it — with a diametrically different approach — treads on some ground covered by last year's finest film. When the most important filmmakers of our time concentrate on the same issues, we should be paying attention, too.
We must also heed the language, for there is no Indian filmmaker who uses words as deliberately, pointedly and skilfully as Bhardwaj. An accidental revolutionary, when jeered at, snaps back "ghar mein Mao-Lenin naa hai ke?" instead of bringing up mothers and sisters. Mandola's profanity sounds coarse but is technically innocent, his most colourful bit of cussing — "uski toh Ma ka papad sadega" — merely sounding dirty. And in one exceptional scene, when Mandola evocatively outlines his vision of farms turning into shopping malls, he kicks things off with brutal lyricism, by saying this dream has been clawing at the back of his eyelids.
There is much detail to cherish, crammed lovingly between the lines. The flighty Bijli, unsure of herself — alternating one minute and direct the next, if I may — is told she has cobwebs inside her. Her father, meanwhile, is a feudal oppressor with his greatest weakness inside him, his moat literally inside his castle. Fateful rain comes from the sky soon after people from an African tribe dance exuberantly around a fire, perhaps inadvertently willing it. And a father shoves his errant daughter ahead of him, as if making her walk the plank.
Bhardwaj's influence is clear, and, as always, saluted. The brass band in the film is called the Kusturi-ca Brass Band, and while the Serbian master Emir Kusturica is known for his chimerical surrealism, Matru appears simpler and less fluid, perhaps due to its need to adhere to a familiar dramatic narrative. In that Bhardwaj's film appears closer to one of the loonier Coen Brothers films, or even, ah yes, a PG Wodehouse plot by way of Jim Jarmusch. It would be depressingly bleak if it wasn't as spontaneously fun.
Imran isn't ideal but looks the part and manages to get by, and Anushka — while stumbling on some of the stranger lines — is great in a couple of scenes near the climax. Arya Babbar, in a Reggie Mantle like clean-shaven idiot role, is pretty decent and Azmi's reliably good, especially when armed with a scary soliloquy.
But make no mistake, this is a one-actor show, giving the greatest thespian in our country another delightfully odd space. Pankaj Kapur is the best we've had, and — as he hallucinates, as he rouses the people, as he steels himself — this is all a reminder of that. Even the way he gigglingly insists on giving a man who calls himself Mao the bottle with his Left hand.
Laced with both acid and arsenic, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola isn't everyone's cup of tea. It takes a while to get into its groove, but changes gears with spectacular finesse after that. And no matter the slight niggles: this is a film that goes far out on a limb, and gives us both bedlam and nuances, enough to warrant repeated viewings. And more than enough to love. Oh boy oh boy indeed.
Rating: 4 stars
Joined: 30 June 2005
Thoroughly enjoyed 'Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola'. Mad and clever and relevant all rolled into one. And such a joy to watch delicious acting!
Joined: 26 July 2007
Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola Movie Poster
Rating: 3/5 stars (Three stars)
What's Good: The funny bits; the Haryanvi setting; Gulabo's appearances; Pankaj Kapur's act.
What's Bad: The slow first half; the undecipherable parts of Pankaj Kapur's speech; Imran Khan's lack of rustic charm.
Loo break: A few before the interval.
Watch or Not?: Watch it for a nice dose of rustic comedy!User Rating:
What would you do if you were cornered by a pink buffalo that grins at you? When you're tipsy? At your daughter's wedding? Our man here – Harry Mandola – is expected to take the bull by the horns, quite literally!
Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) is a wealthy businessman who's looking forward to getting the villagers of Mandola to hand over their land to the government so that he can, in turn, buy the land from them and build a car factory. But Harry's weakness is his drinking habit. Once he downs some juice, he does a Mr-Hyde-to-Dr-Jekyll transforming from a ruthless industrialist to a Robinhood type figure who incites the villagers against himself! To prevent himself from doing so, he has hired Matru (Imran Khan), who's indebted to Harry after his (Matru's) grandfather took a loan for his education.
Goading Harry on his quite unsuccessful road to sobriety is the greedy politician Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi). Devi prays for untimely rains to destroy the farmers' crops while planning to get her dim son Baadal (Arya Babbar) hitched to Harry's daughter Bijlee (Anushka Sharma). A wild child, Bijlee is more than happy to marry Baadal, considering he can take care of all her luxuries with utmost ease.
While he tries to kick the bottle, Harry's withdrawal symptoms include seeing a pink buffalo, Gulabo. To add to his troubles, there's a faceless rebel 'Mao' who is guiding the villagers to stand up to Harry and the politicians very tacitly. And Bijlee realizes that Baadal just isn't cut out to be her husband.
How the entire troupe get to the bottom of this problem plays out next.
Pankaj Kapur, Anushka Sharma and Imran Khan (Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola Movie Stills)
Abhishek Chaubey and Vishal Bhardwaj handle a tricky script. SEZs have caused a lot of debate in India, and the writers tread a careful line. They've shown how various forces come together to spell the doom of a village so that it can be forcibly converted into a Special Economic Zone, even if the land is far from arid and futile (which is supposed to be one of the pre-conditions for a SEZ). It's assuring to see that VB's Harry isn't all horns and tail; in one of his rare moments, he speaks of his dream of seeing his village industrialized with huge factories, machines, and the people getting more than what they ever imagined.
Baadal is a curious character; though he's shown to be hollow in the head, his bright moments are kind of an aberration. Harry's character is wonderfully written and enacted. The movie takes some time to gather pace and you might find your attention wandering in the first half. But the well-timed humour, drama and romance keep your interest later. The part of selling their wheat to a huge company also seems unnecessary while Matru-Bijlee-Baadal's love triangle looks haphazard. Some of the parts – Matru and Harry pulling a well, Devi's "beta" speech – will have you in peals.
A veteran like Pankaj Kapur does not need words of praise anymore, but here goes nothing. Whether it's the slurring Robinhood urging a torch-wielding mob against himself or the stiff, whip-cracking snob, Pankaj Kapur is brilliant as Harry. His mood shifts are inimitable. The only hiccup is that some of his dialogues in his drunken moods are quite indecipherable. Imran Khan just doesn't get it right, apart from the looks (which are precise), his mannerisms and dialogue delivery fall short from what's expected. Anushka Sharma continues her spree of tomboyish roles as the wild-child Bijlee; she aces it with her tipsy act in the climax.
Again, Arya Babbar gets to play the IQ deficient chap, and he gets his comic timing right. Villainous and seductive, Shabana Azmi shows the right amount of restraint and malice as the wily Chaudhari Devi. Navneet Nishan gives a nice comic relief and maybe could have done with a longer role (wishful thinking).
Vishal Bhardwaj dons many hats for Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola. As director, he manages to rope in the different threads and makes it an enjoyable (albeit long) journey. He falls a bit short of the mark with the story. There are parts – like the Shakespeare one – that should have been done more subtly. As music director, he uses a captivating medley of African folk, jazz trumpets, folk songs, and their energy is infectious. Gulzar's lyrics are very good. Kartik Vijay's cinematography is smooth. Editing by Sreekar Prasad is good.
If you're a Vishal Bhardwaj fan, be prepared for a fare that's different from his dark, moody style. The fun and songs should keep you going though.
Joined: 26 July 2007
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