CAST & CREW
Vishal Bhardwaj has done it again, but this time it is entirely different – this one is neither borrowed from a Shakespearean theme nor having a straight cut regular story line. It is an allegorical film steeped in surrealism, and in keeping with that funny-sounding name, “ Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola” is also replete with its dash of dry humour.
This seems consistent with its rustic Haryanvi backdrop - a geographical setting that Bhardwaj seems extremely fond of. It is also not a too subtle satire on the rising class of real estate capitalists espousing the Shopping Mall Culture, and money making politicians waiting on the sidelines to make their handsome pickings. This indeed is not only Bhardwaj’s first foray into humour but also his first film with slight political overtones.
He chooses the backdrop of a Haryana village and the comically bizarre happenings there centre on its chief citizen “Harry” Mandola, portrayed in his unique fashion by the versatile Pankaj Kapur. His character is that of a greedy new age capitalist, trying to capture farm lands through his wheeling and dealing with Chaudhari Devi enacted by Shabana Azmi in a different sort of a role of a scheming politician. Through her manipulative orders, she would enable the government to take over all farmland for the development of SEZs in the village, and subsequently allow its sale at dirt cheap prices to “Harry”.
Bijlee, played by Anushka Sharma in a rather unrealistic role, would be given off in marriage to Devi’s near imbecile son Baadal played by Arya Babbar. In this way, the lady can conveniently access Harry’s wealth. The other players are Matru ( Imran Khan), doubling up as Harry’s driver and a secret revolutionary, organising the farmers to resist giving up their lands.
The climax comes on a positive note, when Matru and Bijlee, now fallen in love, thwart the marriage of convenience. Thereby, they scuttle the planned land deal scam, and in the process get married themselves with the blessings of Harry, who has meanwhile displayed a change of heart. While the imprint of Bhardwaj’s class is clear, his injection of humour has been quite refreshing though not consistently so.
What stands out is the veteran Pankaj Kapoor’s acting, with his character switching between shades of ruthlessness and a soft socialist in his inebriated self. Others have performed creditably, but all these pale against the mastery of Kapur. The apparent eccentricities of the characters that Bhardwaj has created, only add to the comic content, but also ably convey the satire behind.
The split personality of Pankaj Kapur as Uncle Sam and Comrade Mao, all rolled into one, is indeed a masterly contrast. Although not his best, for those who like Bhardwaj’s films, it is a worth seeing film for its sheer variety of treatment. For those not exposed to his earlier films, this truly is the right point to start and work backwards to catch up with his earlier films.
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