Matru Ka Bijli Ki Mandola

A fun, different, entertaining movie that deals with serious issues

By Meena Yeggina

Cast: Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma, Pankaj Kapur, Shabana Azmi, Babbar
Direction: Vishal Bhardwaj
Rating: ***/5

I liked this movie. ?It may not be up to the standards of ?say English Vinglish in its simple messaging in a clean way, nor is it as mundane as Jab Tak Hain Jaan and Dabangg 2. ?It is classy in its own way in spite of its bad-word usage and raw-Indian village portrayal. It also, for a change, brings out the serious issues of farmers laced with pungent humor. While most "intellectual" directors choose urban, gay and terrorist issues, Bharadwaj picks a realistic and rusty problem of India. It does get a little slow here and there, but is often revved up with Mao messages and insights. ?Shabana Azmi's riveting speech on why she has to remain corrupt as a politician and her overall performance, Babbar's stupid/hilarious villainies and above all Pankaj Kapoor's killer performance as Harry Mandola keeps you curious and seated.?

This is a story about a rich, devious man called Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapoor) and the corrupt politician Shabana Azmi's alliance to usurp the lands in a small village in Haryana to build factories and shopping malls. ?While playing footsie with each other, they plan a scheme to get farmers signing over their lands to Kapoor for a low price and signed off as Special Economic Zone by the chief minister, Shabana. In return Kapoor promises to get his daughter married off to Shabana's crazy son, Babbar.

A lucrative exchange for all concerned except for the poor farmers who are cheated by all. ?Comes in Mandola's Man Friday, communist in disguise, Imran Khan. ?A graduate from the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, he starts working for Kapoor but secretly helps the farmers of the village. He's an idealist and wants to change the conditions of his village farmers.

The black comedy about the screenplay (Vishal and Abhishek Chaubey) lies in Mandola's eccentric persona. The alcoholic tycoon becomes a caring soul when drunk, leading a revolution against himself in that state. When he is sober, he is no better than a beast. Vishal Bhardwaj loves Shakespeare. The Macbeth metaphor is cleverly woven in thanks to Mandola's visions. He sees Gulabo the bhains at odd hours (representing his guilt and alcoholism) It is a witty Jatt twist to Lady Macbeth's bloodied hands.

I loved veterans Shabana Azmi and Pankaj Kapoor. ?Shabana Azmi's powerful performance even in a small role makes one nostalgic for impressive actresses. ?Frankly I am sick and tired of idiotic performances doled out by Katrina Kaif and Kareena Kapoors of the industry and lapped up by the critics and viewers as fantastic. ?"Oh Katirna improved in her dialogues (gosh who cares, she just needs to deliver for the crores she takes), or Kareena shook her tummy well!" ?

Shabana soothed and pampered my artistic soul with her thunderous performance. ?So much conviction! ?And Pankaj Kapoor is awesome. ?Both as mean sober and kind drunkard, he delivered. ?Imran Khan looks deadly in his rough and raw avatar and nothing more sexier than a smart, educated and a humane man. I believe there are cuss words in this movie but I could not recognize them nor could my family as we were relying more on sub titles as we did not understand pure Haryani dialect. ?And the sub titles were not literal only translating all cuss words to just one word: buffoon. ?So safe ?there. ?The love triangle between Anushka, Imran and Babbar is comical and Babbar especially delivers very well reminding one of a better looking version of Shakti Kapoor. ?Anushka was okay and falls very comfortably in her role of a bubbly, chirpy girl that she had played in her other films as well. ?She is supposed to be an Oxford return in the film, but does little in the village except falling for a poor yet educated and intelligent Imran. Good for her.

The movie challenges many issues, not really trying to solve them as such as that is impossible. ?The poor and miserable conditions of the farmers who cannot even have enough facilities to store their grains and save it from rain; the irrepressible politicians and capitalists who are waiting like foxes to usurp their land; lack of educated and informed help to the farmers and so on. ?Imran's role stands out as an example where informative youth can help illiterate farmers without involving violent communists and terrorists.

The climax might look simplistic, but when one's greediness bows down to his own humanity, solutions could be very simple. ?The farmers problem however, are not completely solved even in the end.

Music is good, no item songs, and Anushka sends in a subtle message to viewers in her dialogue when Imran snubs her about walking out wet from a lake amidst village men: "What else don't you want me to do, you male chauvinist piggy?" Appropriate timing as far as the Delhi Gang rape is concerned, where many blame the victim.

If your kids don't understand Haryani dialect, you can take them to this movie because sub titles are clean. ?No violence, no item songs with double meanings and above all loads of fun and laughs!