As the scene opens onto a white stretch limousine in a wheat field, standing in front of a lone daaru ka adda, you are reminded of Vishal Bhardwaj’s love for the panoramic shot that most of his films begin with. I sat down, excited and hopeful – a VB film is a rarity and the last one I saw did not do too well, much to my dismay. I strongly believe he is one of the best directors we have and his form of story telling compels me although it almost never seems to grip a larger audience. I had hoped with this one, he would finally be acknowledged as a genius.
He wouldn’t be.
Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola has left me scratching my head. Not because the film is incomprehensible – it is annoyingly straightforward – but because I don’t know whether I liked it or not. I don’t know what kind of measuring stick to use while reviewing it, so this is going to be a short read.
Matru (Imran Khan) is the trusted driver and aide to Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapur), who is a rich businessman hated by the villagers for his ambition to build a limousine factory on the land nearby. The only problem is (for Harry Mandola at least), it has rained this year (on time) and the otherwise barren land now has agricultural value. Meeting this storyline somewhere in the middle is Shabana Azmi’s character Chaudhari Devi who, in order to further her own political agenda, has planned to marry her son (Baadal) to Mandola’s daughter, Bijlee (Anushka Sharma). As the film progresses, it ventures into the absurd at times, although habitually reined in by Pankaj Kapur’s brilliant performance. It definitely has its moments and Bhardwaj is clearly trying to say something important as regards our political system, but does it so vaguely that you don’t go away with any new thoughts on the subject. I’d go so far as to say that by the end of the film, it resembled a hodgepodge of bollywood-ised passion and drama culminating in a wedding ceremony.
So do I recommend this film? Weirdly enough, I do. I suppose my disappointment stems from comparing this film to VB’s earlier works and that is possibly an unfair comparison (and possibly relevant merely for academic purposes). But then, this is a nation that still enjoys watching Salman Khan behave like a horny 15 year old on and off screen so I sincerely hope this film does well, if only to drive actors like him out of the business. Barring a few embarrassingly obvious plot twists, there were moments in the film which had me in fits of laughter and to be honest, anything Pankaj Kapur did or said throughout the film was pure acting gold. I also particularly enjoyed Arya Babbar’s portrayal of Baadal, as the vacuous son of Chaudhari Devi and i’d like to believe these two characters were inspired by current day politicians (wink wink, nudge nudge). Imran Khan and Anushka Sharma are just about hanging on and the minute you realize how boring they are, in comes Pankaj Kapur bhencho bhencho.