Exploring distinctive concepts from Shakespeare to Ruskin Bond is a task that has not only been attempted, but also appreciated. And the man behind it all: Vishal Bharadwaj. With masterpieces such as Maqbool, Omkara and Kaminey, to name but a few, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (MKBKM) was expected to be no less. In addition, the film included veterans such as Pankaj Kapur and Shabana Azmi, both of whom have always received praises for their performances, even if their respective films haven’t done well. Anushka Sharma, despite being rather new to the film world, has lots to rave about as well: acting with Shah Rukh Khan twice, starring in a Yash Chopra film and back to back hits which have all worked in her favour. Thus, MKBKM was nothing less than star-studded either.
Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) is a wealthy landowner in a village based in Haryana. He, being an alcoholic, has two characters: sober and drunk. When sober, he’s a shrewd and ambitious businessman who’s always looking for ways to make money (and sees a pink buffalo); and when drunk, a benevolent rabble-rouser. The film begins with Harry, with the help of Matru (Imran Khan), his aide, instigating a protest against himself for being selfish and not taking into the account the interests of his village’s inhabitants. When sobering up, he realises what he’s done and stops the protest. Add to this, a conniving politician, Chaudhary Devi (Shabana Azmi), who tries to acquire the land and live off the wealth that will make Harry richer, by getting her son Baadal (Arya Babbar) married to his college sweetheart and Harry’s daughter, Bijlee (Anushka Sharma). What complicates the story more is when Matru comes out as the leader of the farmers that tries to save the land, and in turn, falls in love with Bijlee.
- Pankaj Kapur. With the ability to play two extremely different characters within the blink of an eye, he doesn’t fail to entertain, with some witty dialogues and his screen presence. Really, this film was all about him.
- Shabana Azmi. Being an actress who undoubtedly knows her craft, she plays the role of a shrewd politician so much to the core, one might just think it’s been inspired from her real-life persona.
- Imran Khan. For once, I believe, he’s finally done a role that’s different from his previous ones. Yes, he’s still broody, but that with a rather convincing Haryanvi accent and glimpses of an endearing quality, it’s easily his best on-screen performance till date. However, his face is completely hidden behind all that facial hair (and I’m not just talking about the beard, if you know what I mean).
- Anushka Sharma. As per usual, bindaas girl who falls in love and has difficulty admitting to it. Despite being much like her other on-screen characters, she still entertains and looks good doing so.
- Arya Babbar. Whoever thought casting Arya Babbar was a good idea was clearly on something. Whoever thought Arya Babbar could act to begin with was even more consumed by that substance. A terrible performance that was extremely overdone and irritating.
- The story. If my synopsis didn’t confuse you enough, the film definitely will. Despite being the standard two and a half hours, the film drags on for so long and leaves you bored and wanting to leave.
- The dialogues. Written by Vishal Bharadwaj and Abhishek Chaubey, I expected funnier and more memorable lines, of which only few were seen. Having written the screenplay for Omkara, Kaminey and Ishqiya, most of which are still remembered by audiences, MKBKM didn’t impress.
- The music. Composed by the director himself and with lyrics penned by Gulzar, there are really only two good songs in the film: the ones that are incessantly played on TV, the title track and Oye Boy Charlie.
Despite the impressive performances by all the actors (except Arya Babbar), the heart of a good film lies with the story. Unfortunately, MKBKM fails to keep an audience engrossed and amused. Thus, my rating for it is a mere 1.5 out of 5. It’s not as harsh as actually having to sit through the film, believe me.
The final word:
The best part about the film were the sequences with Pankaj Kapur and the pink buffalo. Yes, it sounds stupid, but that’s exactly what it was meant to be, and was humorous nonetheless. Watch the film if you’re a Pankaj Kapur fan or don’t bother.