Saturday, January 12, 2013

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola  

Shock Maara!

Vishal Bharadwaj tries absurd comedy with Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola and does not quite pull it off. For inspired lunacy to work, it should not be shouting “Look at me, I am so funny” in your face all the time.

The film hinges on the idea that the eccentric landowner who wants to be real estate baron – Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapur)--is nice when he is drunk and nasty when he is sober.  When he is sozzled he leads the farmers of his village to protest against himself, and when he comes to his senses he pulls out a gun to quell the revolt. He wants to take over their lands to build factories and malls, they try to put up a fight with the help of a mysterious Mao, and it’s no spoiler to reveal that the rebel is Mandola’s driver Matru (Imran Khan)—lawyer by education, “commie” by inclination.

To acquire the farmers' land, he needs the help of corrupt politician Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi), for which he is willing to give his daughter Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) in marriage to her demented son Baadal (Arya Babbar).

Okay, so the Save Farmers message is clear, even if is in elementary form, but absurdity for the heck of it can only be annoying.  What’s with Matru’s hangers-on that include a eunuch, a blind boy and assorted old men (metaphor for the state of the country? Surely not!)  What’s with group of Zulu musicians Baadal buys for Bijlee--they shake their booties on call—isn’t that racist and offensive to Africans?

Set in Haryana and callously oblivious to the state’s social realities,  Bharadwaj has Bijlee appears out of the village pond in teeny weenie diaphanous clothes with “Dekho magar pyar se” tattooed on her lower back.  To which Matru quips that the entire village will exercise in the night to the sight of her.  Uh Oh!

The shenanigans between the drunk Harry, sneaky Matru, vampish Devi get boring after sometime. Despite sporadic bursts of humour, the film is like a long-winded joke that forgot its punchline.  Little bits of pretentiousness creep in – Kusturica Band?  Bijlee reading Macbeth? The eunuch saying, “Ghar mein Mao-Lenin nahin hai kya?”

Surprisingly, the miscast Imran Khan comes off as the best of the acting bunch, simply because he is the only one not trying too hard... he and the pink buffalo.


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