Direction: Vishal Bharadwaj
‘Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola’ has a lot of things going for it but somehow it lacks the edge of other Vishal Bharadwaj films. Except his last production (7 Khoon Maaf), Vishal Bharadwaj’s productions are commendable for their tight, flawless scripts but in ‘Matru…’ too much time is spent on background and creating context before the story unfolds.
While the plot is basically about illegal land acquisition; here the story revolves around industrialist Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapur), his daughter Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) and Mandola’s odd-job man Matru (Imran Khan). Bijlee is all set to marry the local politician’s (Shabana Azmi) dumb son Badal (Arya Babbar). The wedding is a mutually beneficial deal between the industrialist and the politician. But of course, there has to be the typical Bollywood-style twist where Bijlee falls in love with Matru, putting the entire arrangement in jeopardy.
The reason why it is difficult to grasp the narrative immediately is because the plot oscillates quite a bit; it’s a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of the fight for the villager’s rights, there’s a bit of the absurd but the direction is not as sure-footed. The pace of the first half is quite slow and the story tends to drag a bit till interval. Except a few songs, there’s nothing outstanding about the music.
What works for the film is the solid performance by its lead actors. Imran Khan has obviously put in a lot of lot of hard work to make the transformation to a Haryanvi hero. He almost gets the accent and pronunciation; maybe he needed to be a little more arrogant, as far as his body language was concerned. Shabana Azmi is a delight to watch as the scheming, manipulative politician. But it is Pankaj Kapur’s film all the way; he plays Harry Mandola with élan as his eccentric character switches between the shrewd opportunist and the endearing drunk.
If I was a little disappointed by the plot execution, the performances more than made up for it.
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