Joined: 26 July 2007
Fri Jan 11, 2013 12:59pm IST
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)
By Shilpa Jamkhandikar
You know it's a bad omen when a scene in a Vishal Bhardwaj movie reminds you of one in Shirish Kunder's last film. I felt the dread creep up on me as I watched a scene where a breathless reporter reports a UFO sighting in an Indian village -- reminding me of a similar scene in "Joker", a film that ranked as one of the worst of 2012.
Thankfully, that was the only UFO scene in the film, but there was one which involved cow dung being flung across fields, as well as a long-drawn-out scene where two men try to pull a bucket out of a well.
If all this is making you wary, it's not as bad as it sounds. Bhardwaj's film starts off funny and his trademark style is evident -- from the brilliant "cigarette smoking is injurious to health" message at the beginning to the Tarantino-esque first scene.
Bhardwaj takes on the touchy issue of farm land being taken over to expand India's cities and make way for retail and commercial space, but he chooses to tell the story through a cast of decidedly oddball characters.
Harry Mandola is a rich man (how he got rich and what his day job is, we are never told) who wants to turn his village into a concrete jungle so that he can get even richer. One way of doing this is converting agricultural land into barren land, at least on paper, and for that Mandola has the backing of the state's chief minister, simply referred to as Deviji (a delightfully demented performance by Shabana Azmi). Mandola promises to marry his only daughter Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) to the Deviji's son Baadal (Arya Babbar) to seal the deal.
All would have gone on smoothly if it hadn't been for Mandola's nasty drinking habit. After another of his drinking sprees, Mandola barges in on a meeting of farmers, who are discussing how they can save their land, and urges them to revolt -- against him. He instructs his right-hand man Matru (Imran Khan) to lead the revolt. Of course, when the alcohol wears off, Mandola realises that he's become his own worst enemy.
The villagers, now emboldened, ramp up their protests, helped by a mysterious entity who calls himself Mao and writes letters to them on red fabric. There are several great ideas in there somewhere and you would expect a film-maker of Bhardwaj's calibre to flesh those out easily, but unfortunately, that doesn't happen. The director does the unthinkable -- he simplifies the issue and the farmer's problems seem trivial.
You don't have to look too far to see Bhardwaj's inspiration -- a band in the film is called the Kusturi-ca Band (probably after Serbian film-maker Emir Kusturica, known for his absurdist cinema), but Bhardwaj doesn't manage to take the madness all the way, getting caught up in a boring love story. The theatre of the absurd can be funny and engaging if it goes all the way. Half measures mean that the film begins to look a little sad and embarrassing in the second half.
There are some inspired moments, like Shabana Azmi's slightly crazed act, and the Mao references, but in trying to add a commercial angle, Bhardwaj goes for a love story between Bijlee and Matru. What starts out as an interesting film disintegrates, and leaves you bored.
There too many coincidences and convenient plot twists and the end will leave you anything but satisfied. The other big handicap is that Bhardwaj's leading man just isn't up to it. Imran Khan goes red in the face trying to muster up a Haryanvi accent and act tough. You can actually see the effort in his acting and that's why it jars all the more.
The star of the film is undoubtedly Pankaj Kapur. As Mandola, he is quirky, feisty and energetic and overshadows both young actors with the sheer energy he brings to the screen. Azmi gives him a run for his money, playing a deliciously evil character. I wish her exit had been written better though.
"Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola" is a disappointing film, one that could have been so much more.
Joined: 26 July 2007
Aseem Chhabra feels
Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola starts off on a promising note but
falters towards the end.
In Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola -- directed and written by the very talented Vishal Bhardwaj [ Images ] (and co-written by Abhishek Chaubey, with the consultant support of New York-based Sabrina Dhawan), Pankaj Kapur plays a man with a split personality.
Kapur is Harry Mandola, a real estate developer and corporate biggie living in a village in Haryana. During the day he is a nasty, cold and ruthless businessman who is plotting to grab the land of every poor villager and build factories, apartment buildings and malls. But give him his drink, and Mandola becomes a lovable drunk who seems to have a warm heart and a lot of compassion for the same villagers who he is trying to cheat.
Kapur is absolutely terrific in a demanding role and just as he has done in Bhardwaj's other works (Blue Umbrella and Maqbool), he gives one of his career's best performances here.
The unfortunate thing is that just as Mandola's character, Bhardwaj's MKBKM also has a split personality. At times, the film is hilarious, and reminds you how much fun Bollywood cinema can be, and at other times, it is dull, disappointing, and quite annoying.
At times, the film attempts to discuss some very important and pressing issues facing India [ Images ], and challenges the country's bright, shining image, while at other times the film is muddled, confused and messes up its good intentions.
While it has the absurd whackiness of Emir Kusturica (I thought of Arizona Dream and Underground) and a hint of irreverence of Coen Brothers (O Brother, Where Art Thou and Burn After Reading [ Images ]) in places, at other times it also becomes like a confused Bollywood films -- not knowing where to go and how to end.
MKBKM starts with so much promise. A white
limousine is parked in the middle of agricultural fields facing a shack.
Mandola and his man Friday Matru -- a remarkably surprising Imran Khan [ Images ] sporting a beard and solid earrings (he actually got his ears pierced for this film) -- drunk in the middle of the day, want to buy more alcohol. But it is a dry day and the voice inside the shack refuses to sell alcohol, despite Mandola's desperate pleas (Kapur is brilliant in such moments).
And so Matru and Mandola have no option. They drive the stretch limousine right through the shack.
Next, Mandola walks into a gathering of poor villagers listening to a rebellious message from a Mao Tse-tung (the film has some fun playing with the Chinese leader's name and the fact that most characters in the film are clueless about his legacy). In his inebriated state, Mandola leads the villagers to revolt against him.
An absurd situation like this appears very fresh and charming initially, but when it starts to get repetitive, the film does not seem funny anymore, and one actually stops caring for the characters.
The same happens in scenes with the pink buffalo that appears to haunt Harry every time he decides to quit drinking. It seems like such a whacky, imaginative idea, but not when the buffalo shows up again and again, until it becomes tedious.
Towards the middle of the film, Harry stands on top
of a hill with his some sort of a love interest -- a corrupt politician
Chaudhari Devi (a mostly disappointing Shabana Azmi [ Images ]) -- and visualises his dream
of converting the land that he has acquired through not-so-kosher means into
massive factories and bright malls with multiplexes.
It is a grand dream, presented in a visionary cinematic style.
But that style becomes meaningless when the film switches its focus to the love-triangle plot. Mandola's firecracker daughter Bijlee (a sexy and likeable Anushka Sharma [ Images ]) believes she is in love with Devi's moronic son Badal (Arya Babbar in quite an annoying performance). Devi herself is plotting to cheat Mandola through the marriage of their children.
Will Bijlee marry Badal or her childhood friend
Bhardwaj brings high energy to some parts of the film. As always his musical compositions and background score are delightful. Just as he did with Saif Ali Khan [ Images ] and Kareena Kapoor [ Images ] in Omkara [ Images ], he finds the inner actor in Imran Khan in MKBKM. But his storytelling skills are not well-honed here. So, unfortunately, MKBKM does not deliver all that it promises.
Joined: 26 July 2007
Cast: Pankaj Kapur, Imraan Khan, Anushka
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Think pink. The moment Mr Mandola – a split personality of the virtuous and the evil – quits boozing and becomes sober, he has these weird withdrawal symptoms. A buffalo the colour of bubble-gum grins or grimaces at him. Mooo.
Now that may be as absurdly funny as an Ionesco play. And indeed co-writer-music composer-and-director Vishal Bharadwaj's 'Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola' (read that 10 times to remember the title) does opt for the satirical and faintly surrealistic mode which is commendable. But the outcome doesn't amount to a satisfying stretch of entertainment.
Sure the screenplay has socialistic underpinnings, sniping away at mass land acquisition, political greed and the contradiction of poverty persisting under the shadow of shopping malls and haphazardly-planned housing colonies. However, too much is sought to be said in the space of a film, which doesn't quite ever find its centrepoint. Is it a wacky comedy? A rustic romcom? A political commentary? Or psycho-babble about a feudal overlord whose personality undergoes a bi-polar change on swigging hooch? Go figure.
Much too protracted, some scenes don't seem to have much relevance to the plot – like those frantic antics at a water well, a tranvestite do-gooder, allusions to Shakespeare (unless Bharadwaj was reminding the audience of his trysts with Macbeth and Othello), and most gratutious of all, the comparison of the heroine to Meena Kumari. You're even told that she wrote poetry and wallowed in melancholia. Here the heroine does anything but. A heavy-duty smooch scene and the heroine, emerging out of a pond, may be explained away as commercial ingredients. No hassles with that, but please, why extract humour by references to Mukesh-Nita Ambani, Sheila Dixit, Rahul and Varun Gandhi?
In fact, it's the humour quotient that's quite askew throughout. When it's asked, "Why don't you speak straight for once?", the answer is, "That's because you don't brush your teeth at nights." Huh? Neither is that extended scene about a cop and two official sorts throwing up at an airport strip, remotely funny. Or the bit about two senior sorts playing tosey-tosey under the table. Moreover, conceptually as well as in execution, a perilous night flight on a two-seater airplane lacks the required tension, the special effects here being at their primitive best.
There's much to quibble about in the dramaturgy then. For nearly an hour you wait patiently for the screenplay to come together. Alas, they are much too disjointed and random to root your interest rightaway in the characters, who are either implausible or overwritten. Redeemingly, the concluding section – the final half an hour, give or take five minutes – does arouse you from your half-stupor. At long last, you're concerned about the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde-kind of boozard (Pankaj Kapur). Now, he's on the wagon, and determined to coerce his darling daughter (Anushka Sharma) into marrying the son of a political Cruella Da Vil (Shabana Azmi). Ewww.
Darling daughter, needless to emphasise, has her heart set on the local Adonis (Imraan Khan, with a beard and bidi tucked behind an ear). The lands, the wheat harvest and the lives of the farming populace are at stake – unless of course Matru, Bijlee and Mandola can reverse the tables on Cruella Devi. Cut to a wedding pandal where it begins to rain surprises, pleasant and unpleasant.
That's the drift of a satire, which could have been one knockout of a movie, if the director had exercised a measure of self-control and had narrated the story with clarity. On the plus side, the locations meant to depict Haryana are extremely well-chosen, and the music score has its bouncy riffs.
Of the cast, Ranvir Sheorey is wasted in a teeny cameo. Shabana Azmi is competent but the role isn't worth her calibre. Pankaj Kapur is assigned the chunkiest and layered role, which he does justice to, but it certainly doesn't rank among his best. Anushka Sharma mistakes overacting for a tom-boyish appeal. Here's an actress in desperate need of restraint. Imraan Khan, as Matru, is endurable. Like the rest of this satire gone awry.
Joined: 26 July 2007
Joined: 01 April 2006
Joined: 14 June 2005
By Taran Adarsh, January 11, 2013 - 13:45 IST
MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA opened to lackluster houses across several stations. The opening numbers were slightly better at select multiplexes of Delhi, but the overall occupancy was way below the mark. Ideally, the film should've opened to respectable numbers at plexes specifically, since Vishal Bhardwaj enjoys a good following amongst the gentry audience. The single screens, however, were poor.
Joined: 09 August 2012
Joined: 26 July 2007
Posted on January 11, 2013
When did Vishal Bhardwaj begin his shift from the naturalistic dramas that made his name? One may point to the scene in Kaminey where Bhope Bhau (Amole Gupte) and his goons invade Charlie's (Shahid Kapoor) home, and the latter's friend Mikhail (Chandan Roy Sanyal) joins them a little later. Sensing that Mikhail doesn't know how dangerous Bhope Bhau is, Charlie tries to make him leave – but Mikhail won't listen, and when he learns that this stranger harassing his friend is named Bhope Bhau, he calls himself Tope Bhau and begins a singsong nonsense rhyme stringing together these names. All of which somehow leads to a scene where Mikhail and Bhope Bhau point guns at each other, making masala-movie dishkaon sounds. And this stretch was intercut with scenes of Charlie's twin Guddu in front of a couple of corrupt cops, trying to overcome his stutter while laying out his life story, by singing it to the tune of the title track from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
This wasn't the Bhardwaj we knew, the man who'd made, that far, two childlike fables and two potent Shakespearean dramas. That Bhardwaj was ambitious too, and for proof, we don't have to look much further than the O saathi re song sequence in Omkara, which followed the leads through rooms and up the stairs and through the terrace and back down stairs, all in the course of a single unbroken shot. With all this beautiful showboating, Bhardwaj's ambition was evident in more than just the form. When the Desdemona equivalent in this Othello adaptation loses her cummerbund, during this song, we barely notice it. One moment, it's on her waist; and as she disappears behind a structure on the terrace and reappears, it's gone. Another director would have highlighted this loss, which single-handedly animates the rest of this tragedy. But Bhardwaj kept his focus on the lovers, on their happy times, before planting thunderclouds on their horizon.
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