‘Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola’ review 1
Vishal Bharadwaj brings an intelligent comedy that finds sense in its inanity
A Vishal Bharadwaj film is known for its quirky set-up, deliciously dark proceedings, and - in some cases - zany, oddball humor. All of his films manage to hit bull's-eye with its delirious blend of content. Some of them, however, need a level of understanding that's beyond the normally simplistic and superficial. It is these very films that garner a mixed response and misplaced judgement. Bhardwaj's ‘7 Khoon Maaf' last year was one such film. Interestingly, the maverick filmmaker has now followed it up with another of the same kind.
A Haryanvi village possesses three wildly subversive people: an over-educated driver Matru (Imran Khan), his master, the drunk industrialist Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapur), and his rebel-without-a-cause daughter Bijlee (Anushka Sharma). At the crux of this trio of characters lies a wildly unusual conflict: a marriage alliance between Bijlee and the son of the scheming politician Chaudhary Devi (Shabana Azmi), the agonizingly vacuous Baadal (Arya Babbar). Lurking around somewhere in the shadows, there's a mysterious, almost unreachable Mao, and - hold your breath - a pink buffalo. And the madness has only just begun.
A film like ‘Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola' can just as easily go two ways: intolerable overindulgence, and annoying superficiality. Bharadwaj, fortunately however, chooses a more sensible blend of both. This is what exactly works terrifically well in this comedy. The narrative leaves behind trails of lucid continuity that wrap the insanely arbitrary, almost dark, incidents in the film. Bharadwaj's dialogues are deft and hilarious when required. The dialogues support the outrageously crazy screenplay by Bhardwaj and Abhishek Chaubey (‘Ishqiya'). The surprise continues to be Bhardwaj's consistent ability to execute the material sensibly, without any form of over-indulgence. Be it his focused portrait of his characters, or the way he nuancedly handles even the most absurd of scenes, he succeeds, and how!
The film is supported by Kartik Vijay's (‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!', ‘Taxi No. 9211') decent cinematography. However, if not for the apt color grading, one will notice that the amount of information (and its loss) varies in a few scenes, thereby making the quality of the shot material highly inconsistent. Sreekar Prasad's (‘Dil Chahta Hai', ‘Guru') edit is gimmick free and straightforward. Production design guys get it right. Gulzar's kitschy-yet-classy lyrics get the flow of Bhardwaj's compositions just right. The compositions initially pop into the film one after the other, though once you do get into the flow of the film, you wouldn't mind, as they're not shot conventionally.
Performance-wise, it is Pankaj Kapur who gets everything right about whatever he does in the film. Be it his two shockingly different sides to him (one before sloshed; one after) or his delirious infatuation to Chaudhari Devi, he continues to prove that he's still in form. Imran Khan is the surprise package here. He makes an honest attempt to widen the horizons of his performance, and here he succeeds. Anushka Sharma (‘Band Baaja Baaraat', ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan') as the feisty daughter Bijlee's multi-dimensional character arc turns Sharma's performance 180 degrees. Watch out for the scene in which she gets drunk, and nails her pain and anguish right in the head of the viewer. Shabana Azmi as the evil, scheming politician is perfect. Arya Babbar (‘Guru', ‘Aazaan') as the idiot son is hilarious; almost digging into his role with uncontrollable glee. Ranvir Shorey in his singular scene doesn't provide any support to the storyline. Others are efficient.
What acts as a deterrent to this otherwise lovely gem of a film is the long two-and-a-half hour runtime. The movie could easily have been trimmed by a half hour, benefiting by a quicker pace.
More than six months ago, during a casual conversation with an eminent Indian television personality, the writer of this article was told, "This is what I'd like to call the golden age of Hindi cinema! Filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali and Vishal Bharadwaj consistently dedicate themselves to pushing the boundaries of storytelling in the medium of entertainment we love calling Bollywood." As the New Year brings in a barrage of different flavors, the above quote stands corrected. The movie's character Mandola, who turns into a sensible man only when sloshed. Bharadwaj similarly brings to the audience, with the second film of the year, an intelligent comedy that paradoxically finds sense in all its inanity. Watch it strictly with an open mind.
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