Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola – Movie Review
Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on January 11, 2013 | No Comments
FILM – Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola
PRODUCER – Vishal Bhardwaj, Kumar Mangat Pathak
DIRECTOR – Vishal Bhardwaj
WRITER – Abhishek Chaubey (Screenplay), Vishal Bhardwaj (Screenplay, Story & Dialogues)
CAST – Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma, Pankaj Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Aarya Babbar
MUSIC – Vishal Bhardwaj
The name gives you an indication. Strange-sounding, un-heard of and original it is bewildering yet powerful and unusually attractive. Yet, it tells you nothing about the film, unpredictable and refreshingly mysterious like the film.
For decades now, India has fought to balance development and economic progress with its indigenous self, enforcing its farmers to give up their lands and livelihoods for the sake of industrial progress of the country. Matru (Imran Khan) lives in one such village, fighting one such war.
Matru is an educated young man who willingly lives the life of a serf to Mandola (Pankaj Kapoor), the grand lord of the village named after him (or he is named after). Hari Mandola, a drunkard, arrogant and powerful industrialist dreams of opening a car factory on Mandola’s fertile lands. In cohorts with the Minister and his mistress Chaudhuri Devi (Shabana Azmi), he is even ready to get his daughter Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) married to her petulant son Badal (Arya Babbar).
Filled with millions of exciting details, the story of Mandola’s people is set within a very deliberate context of the Marxist ideology. Red is their banner and their leader, an unknown, Batman-like Comrade who goes by the name of Mao. Hari Mandola, on his part is fighting a battle with his own schizophrenic self, hallucinating about pink buffaloes and leading the farmers into a revolution against his own self. Is the pink buffalo a symbol? Yes, of several things and that is part of the beauty of this film.
Tying up whimsical comedy and cutting satire, Vishal Bhardwaj splashes a stunningly original narrative on the screen. There is a languid pace to the film, an unhurried quality that lets you sink into the mood and space that Mandola is. It is a slice of India’s reality but is deliberately set in a vacuum operating on a plane of poetic whimsy that is at once compelling, surreal and hugely entertaining,
In an almost free-wheeling narrative, we watch Matru, Bijlee and Mandola fight their battles. It is buffered by very rooted and melodic music by Bhardwaj and Gulzar’s sharp pen, which lightly amplifies the mood and softens the edges.
First Aiyya and now MKBKM, nod at Kusturican absurdism, the latter doing it with much more finesse and a vibrancy. Unaccustomed to such nuance and deliberation in our cinema, it takes time to adjust, but once we do, we are engulfed by the absurd personality of the film, its wit, its power and its poetry. It takes indulgent tones and slips into banality multiple times but the sheer brilliance in some of its moments constantly calls attention to the thought that created this visual and aural collage. It is strikingly creative and has an unabashed original quality that in itself is refreshing. That it takes a burning theme at once topical and weighs heavy on our national conscience is no mean achievement either.
Anyone in the place of Pankaj Kapoor, the most under-rated actor in our cinema, and the entire film would be in question. But single-handedly, the man makes the film absorbing and colourful. He is two people on screen, as the drunkard, compassionate and silly Haria (slurring so convincingly it is a treat to watch) and as the stiff, arrogant and ambitious Mr Mandola. Nothing matters when he is in the frame, not even Imran Khan, whose limited capabilities are pitifully exposed in comparison. He does play Matru with a satisfying gravity but fails to give any power or personality to his surroundings. Something that Anushka Sharma, as the girl-with-the-Meena Kumari complex does effortlessly. Miles away from her generally stereotyped bindaas characterization, she is a girl of many colours, as regular as they come, with a past she cannot shake of, or issues she has no clue of. Shabana Azmi, as the mercenary, political supreme, face of the Indian political class, is stunning as she glides unnoticeably through the various shades of her chameleon-like character. It is her sense of conviction that makes the absurd believable and the silly enjoyable.
The film, however isn’t an unending high. Nor is it the peak of cinematic glory (that maybe it could have attained). There are several moments of sheer banality and indulgence that take away more than they contribute. But its brilliance lies in its rhetoric, symbolism and fanciful flights of imagination that makes it an extremely exciting film.