“Teri loha-laathi nahin chalegi, teri henkdi-haathi nahin chalegi”
A film revolving around three characters, Matru (Imraan Khan), Bijlee (Anushka Sharma), and Mandola (Pankaj Kapoor), Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is a satire on the plight of farmers in the mall-infested times we’re living in. The song, ‘Lootnewaale’ penned by Gulzar sums up the core elements of communism v/s consumerism and hence sets your expectations high for Vishal Bhardwaj’s latest offering.
Well, the film does take off on a ‘high’ note, literally but sadly crash lands on no man’s land. It is neither communism v/s consumerism, irony v/s satire, drama v/s comedy, but more of a Vishal Bhardwaj v/s Vishal Bhardwaj – much like the character of Harry Mandola leading a morcha against himself in a drunken stupor.
“Dil agar saand ho to har ladki bhains nazar aati hain”
Pankaj Kapoor, with his Haryanvi cuss words and mindless blabber makes for a great watch, but the Gulaabi Bhains joke gets overstretched beyond certain time. The moment his character gets sober and wears the ‘serious’ expression, you start expecting the real action to begin, only to realize that it was a delusion.
Harry Mandola is a socialist at heart and capitalist on the surface and here’s where the film falls flat on face (just like its humour). He is shown daydreaming the ‘Lokpaal jaisa sapna’ of having large malls and industries at the Special Economic Zone developed over the fertile fields, and after gulping few bottles of Gulaabo (local booze brand), he brings out the socialist in him. This makes his character head forth neither here nor there – just like the film which refuses to take itself seriously, sticks to its idiosyncrasies, bets on inanities, and occasionally delves into serious issues plaguing the nation.
“Tere curve bahut hain mod bahut, har mod pe daud ke dekhta hoon”
Anushka Sharma approaches the role of Bijlee with the same pair of lenses as she does for her every film, right from Band Baja Baarat to Jab Tak Hai Jaan. It seems to matter little whether she’s playing Shruti or Akira and this shows in every frame, be it the much-publicised scene where she emerges out of a village lake wearing white see-through baniaan and kachha ,as put by Matru (I wonder why directors make her emerge from water, while the camera lingers on her skinny limbs and scrawny posterior in every film), or the emotionally charged scenes where she refuses to give ‘Gulaabo’ to her father, Harry Mandola. Hers is the most poorly-written character who’s twiddling her thumbs all through the film till her ‘time to shine’ scene arrives in the film’s hopelessly lame and childishly silly climax.
“Khaari khaali aankhon mein yeh namak, yeh chamak to khaamakhaan nahin”
Imraan Khan’s character, Matru instils hope in the viewers when his real identity is revealed. He plays a JNU-educated guy who chooses to work as a driver of Harry Mandola and protect the rights of farmers from his village, Mandola. Alas, like every other hope this film offers, this one too, loses its steam in the second half.
The rustic look of Haryanvi guy doesn’t actually suit Imraan Khan, especially where he shares the screen with Anushka Sharma. He wears an expression that begs for a clean-shaven look of a chocolate boy (or sissy girl) he’s used to playing in every film. The character not only lacks consistency in Haryanvi accent (he speaks normally when he seeks help from his college friend), but also action. For instance, when the untimely rains prove to be fatal for farmers, Matru asks the farmers to muster up courage and become stronger and in the very next scene, he is shown packing his bags and leaving for Delhi. Is he supposedly a revolutionist or an escapist? Maybe the writers know it better or perhaps they are as clueless as us.
“Apne andar ke jaale saaf kar”
On a positive note, the cinematography by Kartik Vijay flawlessly captures the rustic ambience of the film, especially in the song, Khaamakhaa and the film’s opening sequence where a Limo crashes inside a local theka. The scene where Aryan Babbar’s character brags about buying a group of Zulu tribal dancers without them realizing that they’ve been sold, the rain-dance vis-à-vis farmers’ doomsday, the ‘well’ scene, the line ‘Tumhare ghar mein Mao-Lenin nahin hai kya’, the Shabana Azmi soliloquy on ‘pragati’, the footsie sessions while meeting the farmers, montage of the great ‘capitalist dream’, and to an extent, the ‘Gulaabi bhains’ will surely stay with you after leaving the auditorium. Sadly, they aren’t reasons strong enough to call Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola a great film. It had every potential to be reckoned as one.
“Tu Mao hain na, yeh left waala tera”
To sum it up, the film Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is replete with hiccuped nights of ‘director’s indulgence’, sober hallucinations of ‘veteran’s indulgence’, an overpaid and underfed ‘heroine’s indulgence’, and hangover of an overstretched Gulaabi Bhains joke of ‘writer’s indulgence’. Like its Jekyll and Hyde Mandola’s character, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola deserves a thumbs down from the right hand, while a thumbs up from the left.