Director Vishal Bhardwaj co-writes his own screenplays and is known for adapting Shakespeare in its finest form as Omkara and Maqbool; the music he produces sets new trends and the films that he directs are definitely a class apart.
Whether it is the dark and dangerous Kameenay or the hilariously absurd Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola (MKBKM), Bhardwaj knows what he is up to and has an eye for audience appreciation. Most of the time, he has been appreciated for his inventive storytelling, but MKBKM may seem either extremely intelligent or just the opposite.
Mandola the drunkard (Pankaj Kapoor) is a feudal lord of a village of the same name. When he is intoxicated, he manages to turn aggrieved farmers against him. When he sobers up in the day, he spends his time doing damage control. His driver and right hand man is Matru (Imran Khan), a law graduate who is always at his service and is also the silent admirer of his energetic daughter Bijlee (Anushka Sharma).
Bijlee is a graduate from the University of Oxford who, much like all the intentionally bizarre characters living in Mandola, is living an equally absurd life. Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi) is a greedy minister who along with her son Badal (Arya Babbar) is used to laundering money out of Mandola’s fields, partly due to smart paper work and partly because of charming the drunkard.
Unfortunately, not all the quirkiness works in the film and that is why at times a number of scenes seem to be forced in a screenplay that is meant to be raw and underdone. However, what really hits home is the story that Bhardwaj has created; the rugged looking driver often cusses in street language and calls one of his friends “A bourgeois b****”. The Oxford graduate Bijlee dives in a pond and basks in the admiration of the villagers when she surfaces in her skimpy attire. There is also a pink buffalo that can walk into any frame and urges the viewer to laugh. Given the context of the story, all of it works, if not perfectly then at least smoothly, as Bhardwaj has used intelligent storytelling tools and techniques.
As far as acting goes, this film belongs to Pankaj Kapoor. Despite an undeniably charming and talented couple in the cast, Kapoor gets all the attention and our praise with his on-camera presence. Khan is a different man altogether and what Bhardwaj did with Shahid Kapoor in Kameenay, he has done again with Imran Khan, by bringing out the man in him.
Films like MKBKM will not please most viewers. It is a huge overhaul and something that should not release alongside chart toppers like Dabangg2 and Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Still, it is highly recommended for regular cinema goers; it may not be everyone’s cup of tea like Omkara and Kameenay, but it is worth finding out how wild and absurd your imagination and intellect allow you to go. How the story unfolds is for you to watch, but by now the ridiculous name Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola may have started making sense to you. The catchy upbeat title track brings a smile to peoples’ faces as they walk out of the cinema.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2013.
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