MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA
A pink buffalo smirking in the bedroom. Zulu dancers jiving in the fields of Haryana. Director Vishal Bhardwaj had prepared us for a wacky dream through the promos. And when he opens his reverie with a racy rhyme about the dangers of smoking, and texting and walking, followed by a limousine parked in the middle of a wheat field, we are sold to a surreal setting from the Kusturica School of absurdity that unfolds in our own backyard. Unfortunately, after the initial promise the dream loses direction and bite, and ultimately we wake up to the same old Bollywood mishmash — neither here nor there. Like the wily politician in the film remarks, this dream required an ombudsman!
The lust for land is the foundation of this strident satire that meanders between brilliant and bizarre. Based on land acquisition tactics employed by demagogues working in sync with ambitious landlords/corporates and corrupt bureaucrats, Vishal unleashes a burning issue in the theatre of the absurd and in Pankaj Kapur he has the actor to realise his vision, but the problem is that he, along with co-writers Abhishek Chaubey and Sabrina Dhawan, not only fails to turn the crazy idea into a cogent script but also fails to sustain the madcap element in the treatment.
He cleverly brings in Ambanis and Rahul Gandhi into the narrative, but when the time comes to take the cloak off the system, he hides behind the curtain of convenience.
Once upon a time Kundan Shah ventured into similar territory, but in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron the comic punches were relentless and the mood consistent.
Here the humour comes in short spurts and Vishal changes tracks to slip in a mundane love story, perhaps to take everybody along. One doesn’t have a problem with the theatrics and the quirks, but somewhere they have to connect and the core emotions have to seep through the screen. Here the livewire gets cut often and sometimes rather abruptly rendering the narrative rudderless in the last act. Very much like the plane that Mandola flies in the middle of the night.
Yes, Harry Mandola (Pankaj) is the centre of attraction here. A ruthless businessman who aspires to turn his village into a glass-and-concrete dreamland, Mandola has got the backing of the local politician (Shabana Azmi) and the inept bureaucrats. Together they want to turn the village into a special economic zone and for this they would go to any extent even if it means turning fertile fields into barren land.
The twist is that Mandola becomes a socialist after a few pegs and turns against himself and his ideology. And that’s why his trusted young driver Matru (Imran Khan) drives him towards the bottle, because his heart beats for the farmers for whom he is a modern day Mao. In between, Vishal imbues matters of heart to the narrative.
Matru likes Mandola’s daughter Bijli (Anushka Sharma) but the free-spirited girl is all for Badal (Arya Babbar), the son of the politician who uses him as bait for Mandola’s property.
With music as his forte, Vishal is best when he deals in metaphors. Mandola turns into a socialist only in inebriated state at night. In fact, when he is drunk he is all for a classless society, where he feels Matru is the guy for his daughter Bijli. Is socialism a condition that sounds appealing only under the influence of intoxicants at night? Is capitalism the reality of the day? Can you buy culture? Do elements of nature also conspire with the so-called proponents of development?
Vishal takes a dig at worldly and other-worldly issues in the garb of a rollicking comedy. Who would have thought that a pink buffalo could be a metaphor for the blood Mandola has on his hands.
Remember Macbeth? Nobody is spared. When his JNU-returned protagonist Matru returns to the city, his friend asks, “Revolution kab aa raha hai ? [When is the revolution coming?]” with tongue firmly in cheek.
Bijli seems an empowered lass when she comes out of a pond full of buffaloes, but her view of power is misplaced. She believes her emancipation lies in sporting itsy-bitsy outfits in the village, not realising that she is surrendering her oomph by marrying to a misogynistic Mr. Moneybags (Babbar playing the moron quite well).
Shabana is suitably coldblooded as the face of today’s politician. Her monologue on development brings out the monstrosity of the state of affairs. She believes in what she is doing. The way she says aam taur pe main itni corrupt nahin hoti hoon (Usually, I am not this corrupt) sums up the situation.
However, Vishal is so much in love with Pankaj — he makes even the cuss words sound cute — that he allows Mandola to trample over everybody, including Matru, and become the hero of the piece. Imran gives it all, but he doesn’t have the wherewithal to stand up to Pankaj and Vishal doesn’t help his cause. Also, the problem is like his last film Saat Khoon Maaf where he over-stretched a short story, Vishal here gets carried away and turns what could have been a short play into a lengthy satire that wanders far too long into the realm of farce. There are stretches of brilliance, but we have to endure barren imagery as well. One would not have minded if the irreverent mood pieces added up to something wholesome.
The climax is a charade we have endured many times over. He polishes the accents and shines up the folksy atmosphere to reach out to a larger audience, but were they with him when he became Maqbool ?
It’s this please-all approach that snuffs out the sprite from his dream. Disappointed that it lands unceremoniously, one wants to ask Vishal: Revolution kab aa rahaa hai?
Glorifying violence, this is a usual mob thriller from Hollywood out to daze you into submission with style and stars.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer, it is said to be based on true events chronicled in Paul Lieberman’s book by the same name, but the way it unfolds it seems the screenplay is assembled by watching top gangster movies.
The production design is true to the era (late 1940s) and the costumes catch the eye, but when it comes to content, the film seems riddled with the countless bullets the protagonists fire in this violent adventure, which seems to have been made to satisfy the guilty pleasures of the fan boys.
Riddled with clichés likes glamorous molls billowing cigarettes and scenes where bullets appear to have a magnetic attraction for props and not the heroes in front of them, Fleischer’s work lacks consistency in tone and tenor. From crude to cool to comic, it keeps changing gears without keep us in the loop.
Sean Penn plays Mickey Cohen, a ruthless gangster whose writ runs large on Los Angeles. Even the police and politicians are under his thumb. When he is challenged by the Police Department’s outsiders led by John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), Cohen goes crazy and a boisterous battle spirals on the screen where along the way the two macho men wipe off 40 and a baby is delivered in a bath tub.
We are expected to be impressed for everything is happening for the greater good. Penn, Brolin and Goslin have weathered many a storm by their sheer talent but this one defies logic.