Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola : Movie Review
Even though the name sounds like some rustic village slangs slung together to form a wish-washy sing-song title that means absolutely nothing, Vishal Bharadwaj still manages to impress us with this quirky comic satire. He has done a complete backflip with this one. This movie remains his most commercial one till date where he’s eschewed his usual dark foreboding sense of cinematic direction and infused this one with a mad sense of comedy that trills with happiness, happies endings and the likes.
A Vishal Bharadwaj movie sans dark humor sans pathos sans tragic endings? Yeah scratch your head but you better believe. And what helped him out this time? A pink buffalo and the acting powerhouse called Pankaj Kapoor. It’s a Pankaj Kapoor movie all the way till the end credits roll in and even then, he doesn’t leave you – trying out mad hip shakings with the Zulu-dancers from South Africa.
It’s an irreverent comedy set in the rustic backvillages of Haryana and the story centers around this one village called Mandola – that derives its name from the biggest zamindar or landowner in the village – Harry Mandola ( Pankaj Kapoor, one of his finest nuanced performances till date). The man owns everything in the village – right from the police station to the bank to even a small airstrip with a functional monoplane. The opening scene should set your warning bells tolling like mad, setting the tone for the entire movie. It’s where a limousine crashes into a small ramshackle wooden “tekha” ( had to use the Hindi word for the authentic image it brings to mind, don’t think the british invented a world that does justice to tekha!) in the middle of an isolate dry stretch of wheat field. That’s because our main protagonists, Mandola along with his man Friday Matru (Imran Khan) decide to raid this local wine shop when the owner refuses to give them liquor, the day being a dry day. It is later revealed that Mandola is a chronic alcoholic who switches between the benevolent garrulous lovable drunkard Hariya who mouths "Panch“!Pancho!” at the drop of a hat and always thinks the good of his village people and the sober oxfordian English-speaking Overlord of the village who harbors dreams of selling off the fields owned by the villagers to the state government and dreams of seeing factories belching out thick dark smoke and swanky malls crowding the skies in that village, including a wholly-owned real estate gated community project, Mandola Homes thriving there. This forms the main conflict of the entire movie with the villagers being helped out by a mysterious “Mao” (VB’s take on the anarchist revolutionary who fights against the capitalist blood suckers) to fight against the tyrannically oppressive Mandola.
Add to it underlying sub plots of an suppressed love story between Matru and his master’s daughter, Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) and of course, the villains of the story – the mother-son duo of Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi )and her moronic son (Arya Babbar) who are corrupt political hot shots with designs on the entire property of Mandola.
All of this comes to a crazy simpering climax at the end of two and half hours – and yet throughout the movie, you feel like it has a dual personality. Like the main protagonist of the movie, Harry Mandola. Jerky, clunky and stretched to needless confusion at times or outrageously funny, irreverent, whacky to the core at other times. There are moments that grab you by your shirt collars and sock you hard – the creepy mesmerizing monologue by Shabana Azmi, the alcohol-fuelled “night-walk” where Harry and Matru take their monoplane for a spin, the final climax…all of these stay back with you when you leave. Vishal Bharadwaj brings his own stamp of quirkiness into the script – introducing African Zulu dancers in a rustic Haryana village ? in any other movie, you would have baulked, but with VB – you are ready to expect anything, aren’t you?
Anushka Sharma again plays herself. Loud, irritating and overly chirpy, the daughter of the stinking rich Mandola, Bijlee Mandola. Sticking true to her name, she does give an electrifying performance – the lonely daughter pining for her alcoholic estranged father’s love, a girl who has always been in love with her servant but has to marry a moron for the sake of her father’s political ambitions. Imran Khan even though manages to shake off that stamp of chocolate boy – ( I admit, he did look impressive with a full beard and a heavy gold earring!) and does get whipped up into shape by VB to deliver a believable performance as the city-educated lawyer Matru who comes back to his native village. Shabana Azmi manages to evoke a feeling of dread playing the corrupt-to-the-core killer ambitious politico who would go to any extent to fulfill her desires. Arya Babbar plays the imbecile son and manages to be that annoying idiot very convincingly. But of course, the loudest applause goes to Pankaj Kapoor for his fantastic portrayal of the split-personality Harry. Nasty mean and wickedly ambitious as the sober rich feudal lord and the lovable generous piss-drunk Mandola with a heart of gold – being childlike and absolutely lovable. Fantastic.
This movie is not the greatest from the VB stable but I am not complaining. Eccentric, goofy, confused and frustrating at times, especially the middle, the movie but starts and ends off in the right note and should please most people.