There's always a story behind how the film was made and every once in a while the viewer likes to voice out how he thinks it must've panned out. So this is how Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola just might have rolled.
Not-so-sober Vishal Bharadwaj: This system is frustrating, the politicians are despicably corrupt, the businessmen are making biryani out of the farmer's blood and labor, this country is going down the tube. We need to do something!
Sober Vishal Bharadwaj: Let's make a movie.
Not-so-sober VB: Ah-ha! Why not? People protest by participating in peace marches, wearing pink chaddis, and replace their display pictures with black dots on Facebook and Twitter. They do what they know how to do, I know how to make films. Perfect.
Sober VB: But, all this political shoo-shaa, the angst of the farmer, etc is too serious, our aam junta will get terribly bored.
Not-so-sober VB: Political satire it is, then!
Sober VB: Good thinking, there! Let's add a love angle to the mix, just for good measure.
Not-so-sober VB: You think? I was hoping to add a woman to the mix but more like a vamp.
Sober VB: You have yours, I'll have mine. Deal?
Not-so-sober: Only if you let me go a little crazy.
Sober VB: Crazy is good, the multiplex junta loves it!
Not-so-sober VB: Promise me, you won't let go of the focus on the issue with the love triangle.
Sober VB: I'll sign the papers, if you don't go overboard with the crazy bit just because I agreed.
Not-so-sober VB: Yes! dances the happily-ever-after dance
Anything that is repeated too often or for too long, like the film's quirkiness or this reviewing style, gets old too soon. Fortunately or unfortunately, both not-so-sober VB and sober VB got to make their films, respectively. Yes, as usual, the not-so-sober one makes more sense.
Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola starts the bang with an incredibly insane title - it readies you for the zaniness to look forward to. The 'no smoking' disclaimer is a witty, ironical, slap-in-the-face start to a film. The buffoonery begins and builds up to a "you got to be kiddin' me" level. And just at the right moment, a decent element of story is added in the form of a strong, burning issue in the country.
The issue at hand represents many other issues we are faced with in the real world. The politician represents how we as the citizens perceive our politicians. And how we see them play footsie with the businessmen whose deep pockets want to grow only deeper while taking the entire nation for a ride.
Then, you wait for the big climax, you wait for the drama to reach a peak, you wait for the big climax, you wait for the exhilaration that it will bring along, you wait for the big climax. And it doesn't come.
I am ever-so-grateful to Vishal Bharadwaj for not making the climax a huge jingoistic movement. I am also grateful to him for not having characters make u-turns from their basic natures. I can't even complain about the end being silly because I indeed thought it'd be atrociously out-of-this-world kind-of silly. I have a feeling I'd have enjoyed it that way because of the build-up of craziness. Unfortunately, it doesn't go all the way.
Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola cannot claim to be about the three characters Matru, Bijli and Mandola either. None of them is given any depth nor are any of the relationships paid attention to.
To seal the anti-climax, comes the title song made solely for the purpose of marketing and you give a Rohit-Shetty/Farah-Khan worthy shudder as you see Shabana Azmi (who plays a vamp) do the signature dance step! Why?
It is one thing to make a political satire about a serious issue and quite another to market the movie as comedy and fun without letting the audience in on the seriousness. Are the viewers not worthy of knowing what the film is really about? Or do the makers not have the guts of selling the product for what it is? Make Shabana Azmi dance out-of-context, really? I can't get over it.
And yet, despite some episodic side-plots, Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola is not a complete wash-out. It has some disarmingly witty dialogue, especially reserved for Mandola (Pankaj Kapur). There are at least three scenes in the second half that stay with you because of powerful lines, insight, sarcasm, and delivery.
And if these don't work for you, Pankaj Kapur's performance alone is enough to carry this film for you. From the mumbling alcoholic to the delirious alcohol-quitter to the stone-sober, cold businessman - Pankaj Kapur does the whole range without once going over-the-top despite the genre of goofy satire that the film belongs to.
Shabana Azmi holds her ground as the ambitious and manipulative politician. She has one scene that she could have shined in. But she is overpowered by the theatrical setting that is necessary for the powerful and insightful dialogue she delivers. Imran Khan doesn't have much scope to be different from his usual except for occasionally slipping into a Haryanvi accent. And as I said, like anything that is repeated too often or for too long, Anushka Sharma's wink-and-grin-wide routine is getting old too. Arya Babbar gets to play stupid and well he plays it appropriately.
I don't mind a serious film, I don't mind socio-politics, I don't mind satire, I certainly don't mind quirky, dark humor. What I don't get though is why a film can't pick one or two of these themes and stick to it through and through - be there, build-up on it and end like the makers believed in what they were making, without any external pressures.
- meetu, a part of the audience
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