By Shubhra Kukreti:
Bidding good-bye to his ‘dark films’, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola offers us an insightful cinema packaged, or if I may say, advertised as a rom-com. The movie has all the essential masala of a Bollywood blockbuster yet it fails to incite the appropriate emotion expected from a Vishal Bharadwaj work. Oh boy, what went wrong?
The story of MKBKM is based in a rustic Haryanvi village owned by a rich man, Mandola (Pankaj Kapoor) who dreams of turning the lush green fields into a concrete jungle under the pretext of an SEZ (Special Economic Zone). But, wait a second, daughters know their fathers the best and Mandola’s Oxford returned daughter, Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) claims that her father is actually two different persons “sharab se pehle and sharab ke baad”. A socially conscious person awakens within an otherwise sly landowner when he is tipsy. His JNU educated driver, Matru is a “dhanwaano ka dushman, kisaano ka dost” Mao-Tse Tung (open reference to a communist leader) in disguise inciting people not to sell their land. However, the real villain is Chaudhary Devi Ji (Shabana Azmi) whose dim-witted son Baadal (Arya Babbar) is to marry Bijlee for his personal ‘pragati’. Her fierce monologue is an attempt to project the sheer hypocrisy of our beloved ‘netas’ who believe that progress of the individual ‘neta’ leads to the progress of the nation and not vice-versa! And, of course, there is a ‘gulabi bhains’, Mandola’s figment of imagination, constantly probing at his guilty conscience. With the union of Baadal and Bijlee, Chaudhary is to become the undisputed ring leader, but beware, as she herself puts it, “There is many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.”
Bharadwaj has treaded a different path this time by integrating lot of fun moments with the film; when the graph of tension builds up, the divertissements bring comic relief. Again, when you get restless with a senseless stretch, a gripping scene pops up. Even the dialogues in the film are loaded with subtexts. For instance, in one of the gatherings, one of the villagers shout, “ghar mein Mao-Lenin nahi hain kya?”, in another scene, Matru calls his friend a ‘bourgeois bitch’. The analogy of ‘neta-janta’ and ‘chor-police’ is equally interesting. Behind the bluffing lie the mind blogging, ugly truths, one needs to read in-between the lines.
As far as the performances are concerned, there is nothing left to be articulated in the praise of the two finest actors in the industry: Shabana Azmi and Pankaj Kapoor. Imran Khan, though much refined this time, could not remain loyal to the Haryanvi accent. Anushka was beautiful but practically useless in the movie. Arya Babbar did complete justice to his role. Gulzar’s lyrics and Rekha Bhardwaj’s voice weaves magic and the music lingers on even after the movie hall is left. The screenplay, co-written by Vishal and Abhishek Chaubey is an ambitious project mixing too many things at a time. The movie seems to crumble in the first half but regains momentum in the second half again. Except for a few forced moments, the movie should be watched for unravelling the development myth, a Macbethised Mandola, a deliciously wicked Shabana, Anushka’s ethnic skirts, African troop, a ‘jatt’ Mao and of course, our socially vigilant, brave Bhardwaj.