Just when I was convinced that there is nothing that the supremely talented Vishal Bhardwaj can’t do well, he co-writes Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola.
The film, a romantic comedy, has a trite plot with an equally trite leftist message jammed in where something fresher could have made MKBKM a much more enjoyable experience. Matru (Imran Khan) is a law graduate from Delhi University who, like his father before him, works as an all-purpose servant for the wealthy Mandola family, Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) and the apple of his eye his daughter Bijlee Mandola (Anushka Sharma). Although Matru is supposed to be Harry’s driver, what he really is is Harry’s Man Friday, and Kapur and Khan are fantastic as that pair. Matru is also in love with Bijlee but she is engaged to Baadal (Arya Babbar), son of the state’s chief minister Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi), who she met while studying at Oxford.
Harry loves his drink as much as his daughter and is said to have two different personalities when intoxicated and when not. When sober, and a heartless construction contractor, Harry intends to build a Special Economic Zone in place of wheat farms tended by residents of a village nearby who are led to resistance by a man who calls himself Mao (dear lord!) and communicates with the villagers only through letters written in red (dear, dear lord!). When drunk, Harry transforms into an irreverent Sikh whose takyakalaam is a gaali that involves sisters. Not fully aware of it, he sides with the farmers, leading a movement against his own project while singing a song against capitalists at large. Matru, his faithful servant, is of course right next to him. The film is really all about which version of Harry Mandola overcomes the other and there are no points for guessing which side wins.
Kapur is an absolute delight as Harry Mandola – both of them. It is safe to say that he is the star of the show and, with some help from Babbar, pretty much shoulders the entire responsibility of entertaining the audience. Although they are very convincing in their respective roles, Khan is Khan and Sharma is Sharma from any other film. For me, that was disappointing to say the least because as an avid Vishal Bhardwaj fan, I had expected that he would have been able to help them bring out a hidden actor inside them.
Full points to Bhardwaj for maintaining his signature rustic style and for keeping the film crisp and short; a minute longer and it could have been a disaster like his last film Saat Khoon Maaf. The music, like the dialogue (both done by Bhardwaj), is fun and quirky and songs are very nicely picturised without wasting precious film time. However, it would have been nice if he had not tried to force his wife Rekha Bhardwaj’s voice on Sharma. Also, why the African Zulu tribe was needed in the film is beyond me.
Verdict: The film reminds one of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi 6 with a message that is lost on the audience. Not impressed overall but Pankaj Kapur’s performance is not to be missed.
This blog also appeared on The Express Tribune Blogs here: http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/15686/matru-ki-bijlee-ka-mandola-im-not-impressed/