Vishal Bharadwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is yet another evidence of how some directors do not care to be a part of the 100-crore club. Their movies may not be commercial blockbusters, but the filmmakers’ intentions are honest. If you are wondering what the title means, it’s nothing! Seriously, it’s just an arrangement of three engaging names in random orders.
Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapoor) is a filthy rich, alcoholic builder who dreams of setting up industries and exploits the village which is named after his ancestors. Matru (Imran Khan), a Jat boy, is a bonded labourer who, even after completing his education, is serving Mr Mandola for the loan his grandfather had borrowed from Harry.
Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) is the feminist (at least in her intro scene) daughter of Mandola who is about to be wedded to Badal (Arya Babbar), the son of a corrupt and power-hungry politician, Chaudhuri Devi (Shabana Azmi). The rest of the plot is too confusing to even try and explain. Lets say it is somewhat communist ideologies versus anarchy – presented through a battle of villagers and through the split personalities of Mandola.
Ten minutes before the ending of the first half (which is mighty slow), the movie is still trying to set the plot. Just before the interval, there’s a twist (not like you couldn’t guess it) and during the break, you wonder what the movie is trying to show. This confusion is carried on till the end of the second half, in which, characters appear and disappear conveniently. At the end of it, even though they had worthy intentions, I doubt the filmmakers knew what exactly they wanted to portray through their various characters. This is exactly what works against the film and proves to be disengaging. While the film is funny in parts, the entire package, which is painfully slow in some parts, fails to hold the audiences' attention.
Bharadwaj is a pro at portraying his negative characters and in Matru Ki… he proves this with stellar actors like Azmi and Kapoor, the two most convincing parts of the film.
Harry Mandola’s character has too many shades, two of which are evident on the screen – a warm-hearted alcoholic who turns socialist when Gulabo (country liquor) gets into his system and another, a shrewd businessman who can do anything to fulfil his ambition – and Pankaj Kapoor impersonates these with utmost perfection. Indeed, it is safe to say he is the only and most entertaining character in the film, so much so that when he is not in the scenes, I miss him (mainly because those scenes are too boring). He has the most powerful role and the funniest dialogues in Matru Ki…
Imran essays the character of a socialist Jat quite well, but he fails to break away from the chocolate boy image. Anushka adds the much-needed glamour, but her performance is unconvincing. Special mention here would be of the scene where she is drunk. While she tries very hard to be funny, there are very few moments when she manages to being up a smile. Shabana Azmi is at her powerful best, while Arya Babbar is plain irritating (but I believe that was the intention of his character).
The dialogues, as mentioned earlier, are not completely satirical and bring out a laugh only at times. Some of them (like, when handling a bottle to Imran, Kapoor asks him to take the one in his left hand, saying, “Tu left wali lele, tut oh Mao se”) are very well written.
The music of the film is average. Except the title track, no other song is worth remembering. The background score, however, is commendable and helps set the tone of the scenes.
Watch the film for Pankaj Kapoor and Shabana Azmi and some fun that the duo bring about. But don’t expect too much out of it. Final warning: Bharadwaj fans, stay away from this one.