From the smoking warning to the climax, there is nothing remotely normal or sane about Vishal Bhardwaj’s latest outing, Matru Ki Bijilee Ka Mandola. However, underneath all the madness is a simple inspiring story about some very memorable characters.
So yes as you may have guessed the movie is about a Matru (Imran Khan, an LLB graduate who instead of pursuing his degree is Mandola’s right hand man), a Mandola (Pankaj Kapoor, an alcoholic industrialist who’d like to take over the villagers’ land to build his business empire) and a Bijlee (Mandola’s only daughter who is in love with Badal (Arya Babbar)). There’s also the conniving Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi), mother of Badal and a local politician who is Mandola’s partner in crime who plans realize their major business venture by hook or crook. The story is all about these weird, wonderful and flawed characters and how the people of Mandola deal with the looming unwanted economic upgrade that will change their lives forever.
Generally not one to even watch a Vishal Bhardwaj movie, as they’re just not my cup of tea, I found myself intrigued enough to check this one out. A certain level of rawness, grittiness and sheer craziness is the man’s signature style but I must say that as odd as this may sound, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is his most tamed work. With this film he’s meeting what we call ‘normal’ half way and delivering something that is still very VB in style.
The beauty of Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola are its characters. They’re interesting from head to toe and as crazy as they are, they’re in fact quite relatable. Vishal largely focuses on these characters rather than twists & turns in the script, which is why the film progresses at a leisurely pace. There is no definite formalistic pattern wherein there’s a high point at pre-interval, a build up to climax etc. None of that is apparent in MKBKM and I don’t know about you, but I quite frankly didn’t mind it. The story and characters had me intrigued enough to sit through the whole duration without feeling that the film lacked pace.
If you’re sick of mediocre performances and really want to see people pushing the envelope then this VB outing will be a treat. Essentially I would say that this film is a Pankaj Kapur show all the way! The man has so many sides, much like that of Mandola’s. He plays the sophisticated industrialist by day and a mess of a crazy drunkard at night flawlessly. Then there’s Shabana Azmi who just leaves you speechless at the end of every scene. Seeing Pankaj Kapur and Shabana Azmi onscreen you realise just how committed these two actors are to their craft. No inhibitions and no hold backs. They’re there onscreen 200%. I’d they are those rare actors that don’t come with offscreen baggage that holds you back from accepting them in their roles onscreen which is why I think their performances was an absolute treat to watch.
It seems unfair to immediately talk about Imran and Anushka after talking about such pioneers but we must be relative in comparisons. If you know me then you know how unsure and skeptical I was about Imran pulling off Matru’s role. I’m pleasantly proven wrong and I’m loving it! The world has praised him over and over again and until now I felt like the odd one out who wasn’t seeing what everyone else was. It helped that he was constantly bouncing off a brilliant actor, Pankaj Kapur, which perhaps gave his performance that extra plus point that was missing in his earlier films. Unlike the case with Imran, with Anushka I was certain she’d do this one well and she does exactly that. She’s never been a lady of inhibitions and completely lets herself go as Bijlee. The surprise package of the film is Arya Babbar who gets cast in a significant comic role which he essays brilliantly. Definitely a hidden gem of the industry that we’re slowly discovering.
Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola may not be one of those supremely entertaining films of recent times that you’ll want to re-watch over and over again but fact of the matter is the maker’s didn’t set out to make that kind of cinema. The beauty of the film is the kind of story telling it adopts, the characters that Vishal has written and the performances which he’s gotten out of his actors. Its a film about relationships and about the small guy fighting and winning against the powerful glorified goons of society. Keep your eyes peeled for a brilliant climax sequence, iconic scenes of Shabana Azmi and Pankaj Kapur and a career defining performance by Imran Khan.