Clearly, humour is not Vishal Bhardwaj’s forte as his rustic “comedy” stumbles much like its main actor, Pankaj Kapur, does all over the film.
The plot: Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) dreams of turning the lush fields of his Mandola village into a concrete, fume-spewing gold mine for himself with the wily Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi), a minister, by his side in more ways than one.
Tyrannical when sober, Mandola has four loves – daughter Bijlee (Anushka Sharma), who does nothing except for references to her foreign education; the bottle (favourite brand Gulabo); the concrete dream and his inappropriate partnership with the minister. Chaudhari Devi cleverly plays on his weaknesses and forges a match between her son Baadal (Aarya Babbar) and Bijlee, convincing Mandola that she will pass the vast fertile lands as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to make his dream come true.
Meanwhile, the well-educated and well-meaning Matru (Imran Khan) steps in to save the naive villagers who are ready to give up their land for a petty amount from the government, outwitting the machinations of Chaudhari Devi and Mandola. However, Mother Nature seems to be on the side of evil as unseasonal rains destroy the crop.
So, does Mandola sober up in time to save his daughter from a disastrous marriage and his village too? Be ready to sit through a really long 2hrs and 31 mins for the answer.
The good: Pankaj Kapur is the only consistent factor all through and it is a delight to watch this senior dance, talk, walk, curse and give a splendid performance. However, it is also a drawback as large sections of the audience will not flock to a movie that really has a character artiste in the central role. Shabana Azmi looks scary and vile, as the part requires her to. Imran Khan is dressed up accurately for his part but doesn’t have much to scope to act. Aarya Babbar plays his bit well as the spoilt, slightly dumb, mamma’s boy. Anushka is good as always but has nothing substantial to do. The pink cow animation is well done.
The bad: Convoluted and confusing most of the way, Vishal Bharadwaj expects us to read between the lines to understand the several unnecessary scenes. eg. Matru’s female friend in the city perhaps has a troubled married life but that’s neither here nor there, like the rest of the film.
A predictable story, Bhardwaj doesn’t maintain an even tone and his attempts at comedy fail miserably. At junctures where you ought to be a bit serious you will probably snigger at the silliness of the situation. eg. the romance between Pankaj Kapur and Shabana Azmi which is supposed to be funny, is mostly creepy and uncomfortable. The so-called Mission Mao is beyond silly. There are too many elements in the story and an inexplicable change of heart (eg Bijlee helping Matru) whenever convenient.
There are plenty of loose ends too and, for a film that perhaps boasts of being a notch higher than regular Hindi cinema, there are unbelievable lapses like a minister’s son getting married with zero security around her to protect her and African performers imported by Aarya Babbar dancing and cheering the opponents (the villagers and Matru, Bijlee) for no reason at all. Scientists are portrayed as imbeciles who can’t tell a UFO from an aircraft that has crashed.
Dialogues by Vishal Bharadwaj are forced. “Mujhe bahut darr lag raha hai Matru, main kya karoon?” Matru responds, “Darr lag raha hai? Toh ek kaam kar, matt darr!” Or when Bijlee asks Matru, “Tu seedhe seedhe baat kyun nahin karta hai kabhi?” To which Matru randomly responds, “Tu bhi toh raat ko sone se pehle brush nahin karti.” And when Bijlee wants to tell Matru that she loves him, she says, “Aajkal toh main sone se pehle brush karne lagi hoon Matru.”
The direct references to and mention of Varun Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Mao Tse, Naxalites etc also don’t evoke the laughter they are supposed to. The movie’s unfunny streak continues when even the pink buffalo is overused and stops making you smile.
Overall: Coming from Vishal Bharadwaj, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is a huge disappointment.
– Priyanka Ketkar