A Vishal Bhardwaj movie always evokes strong reactions. Be it “Omkara” or “Ishqiya” or “Kaminey”- one can like it, hate it, love it or be repulsed by all the swearing and cursing in hard-core UP style. Whatever be the reaction, it’s got to be a strong one. You don’t walk out of the hall with a mixed bag of moderated or confused reactions. This was however before I saw “Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola”. I came out with a totally confused response – it was something about something alright “Something ki Something ka Something”. What exactly I can’t say.
The promos did look interestingly funny though it took me a while to figure out who or what Matru, Mandola and Bijli were all about. Pankaj Kapur and Imraan Khan, the two mad hatters, the effervescent Anushka Sharma in her true element and not to forget the smiling pink buffalo! It looked promising.
The movie begins beautifully with a hard to forget picture of a limo in a field and Mandola and Matru at their drunken best. Thereon it goes onto to deconstruct the whole politics of protest with a dead drunk Mandola leading a protest against himself, a protest engineered in the background by some Mao we are told. But from the very next scene the movie starts faltering. Rather it reels and collapses under the sheer pressure of ideology and conveying that ideology in a fairly “in your face” manner.
The land scams behind rapid urbanisation; the politician-businessmen nexus at the cost of hapless farmers; the plight of the Indian farmer, who is on one hand at the mercy of weather gods and on the other is manipulated by the powers that be; the JNU educated Leftist rebel; the standoff between the “commi bastard” and “bourgeois bitch” who nevertheless can join hands as long as their respective interests are taken care of- way too much has been loaded in the movie till it starts reading like the Communist Manifesto. That the pink buffalo, “Gulabo”, isn’t instead a red one, “Lali” is indeed a mercy.
Not that there is anything wrong with a movie with a message per se. “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro” stands tall till date as a classic example of a hard-hitting comedy that leaves you with a churning stomach not only because of the peals of laughter it evokes but also because of the pity one feels at the plight of the common man inadvertently and inexorably caught in a corrupt system. The parts that work the best in the movie are where Mandola, with his dual personality act, one with and the other without “Gulabo”, is on a roll along with his right hand man, Matru. The point is conveyed alright but without weighing the audience down. Bijli, Oxford returned with her Meena Kumari complex, has little to contribute as do the totally redundant Zulu dancers. Unfortunately both Bijli and Matru often falter with their desi Haryanvi accent. Only Mandola is able to keep up the expletives and the accent unabated.
But this overwhelming burden of ideology is what proves to be the undoing of “Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola” despite stellar performance by Pankaj Kapur. And this is quite a pity for we had potentially another “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro” on our hands.