Movie Review: MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA (2013)
Vishal Bhardwaj has been a prolific Director in Bollywood ever since his debut. This month sees the release of his third adaptation of Shakespeare with HAIDER. Known for such dramatically serious work, MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is his only film that can be described as a comedy, albeit a dark one.
Blank Page Rating: 3 out of 5 Pink Buffaloes
The story is simple, yet nuanced with a variety of different characters with their own agendas. A businessman who is one of their own is ravaging a small village. The businessman Mandola, played by Pankaj Kapur, plans to forcefully take over the villagers farms, through an alliance with a lady politician, (played by Shabana Azmi) that will be solidified by the wedding of his daughter to her son. The only one complication here, is that Mandola becomes a totally different person after a few drinks, reverting back to his villager self, one assumes from his younger days, and he becomes sympathetic to the villagers plight, to the point of even rallying them against himself in a drunken stupor.
Mandola’s drinking problem has reached such heights, that he has had to hire Matru, played by Imran Khan, with the sole job of ensuring he doesn’t drink too much. However, a drunk Mandola is so much preferable to the cruel sober one, so Matru always indulges him and drunken shenanigans between the two ensue with hilarious results. The chemistry between Khan & Kapur, despite their age gap and both actors coming from different backgrounds, is one of the greater comedic pairs seen in Bollywood in a while. Despite their fun shenanigans, which also consists of Mandola hallucinating a pink Buffalo as the proverbial monkey on his back, there are some great dramatic moments in the film, which make it more than just the typical comedy of errors, especially during the third act.
MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA also features Anushka Sharma in a supporting capacity more so than anything else, simply due to the significance of her character in the film. She has many charming scenes with Matru and is the driving force of disapproval for Mandola’s drinking, but other than that, her capacity in the film seems less than the caliber of work she is used to doing. Sharma does get a great scene in the 3rd act, which acts as the catalyst for the climax. The obligatory love story between Matru & Sharma’s Bijlee is a secondary plot point to the larger issue of the farmer’s losing their lands. With a mysterious benefactor guiding the simple minded villagers in their battle against the high profile lawyers and city politician, the story of them trying to keep their farms is what’s center stage.
Bhardwaj proves that his genius shines as much during frivolous comedic affairs, as it does with Shakespearean re-makes or regional crime thrillers, which have been the genres most of his films have fit into thus far. Bhardwaj seamlessly blends aspects of a true musical into the film as well, where people will bursts into song and dance numbers, but it`s not nearly as random or out of place as most Bollywood films are, but rather serve to act as a progressive bridge between the serious scene and the ridiculous-ness that follows.
The performances are stellar, given the setting in which they are being given. Imran Khan really de-glamorizes himself as a small town boy is in servitude to Mandola, working off the loan his father took to educate him as a Lawyer. Khan is not the typical chocolate romantic hero in this, but rather a fiery revolutionary. Sharma’s Bijlee is even more of a rebel with her western ways in the small village, flaunting convention but with deep concern for her father’s alcoholism. Pankaj Kapur steals the show as the almost split personality Mandola, playing a fierce and cruel man when sober, and a completely silly and ridiculous portrayal when drunk.
MATRU KI BIJLEE MA MANDOLA works on a variety of levels as a dark comedy with great performances and a fun filled story that is ridiculous, silly and all the more entertaining because of it.