Harry Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) is a man of two personalities: industrialist when sober, emotional fool when drunk. Matru (Imran Khan) is Mandola’s man Friday who often navigates him towards alcohol, preferring his empathetic side. Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) is Mandola’s livewire daughter with a penchant for drama; it is her “Meena Kumari complex” that has her all set to marry Baadal (Arya Babbar), son of a politician (Shabana Azmi) who has her own ulterior motives. These characters make up the structure of this political satire, where farmers struggle to save their land (and are aided by the mysterious Mao) while the industrialists dream of building malls upon it.
There are certain expectations that come along with a Vishal Bhardwaj film, but the question is, does his latest outing live up to those standards? Read our Pros and Cons list to find out!
+ The performances. Magic always happens when Vishal Bhardwaj and Pankaj Kapur work together, and Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is no exception. Pankaj Kapur excels in his scenes, doing everything for this role – he shimmies, he jumps into a pool, he gets up to some crazy drunken antics – and he does it all in a way that only he can. Matru is different character for Imran, and he carries it very well – he looks the part, he talks the part and he acts the part. It is definitely amongst his best performances. Bijlee, on the other hand, is not a very different character for Anushka, since she’s been the fiery girl in several films before. Still, it’s a role she can carry off well, and she does so yet again for this film, excelling especially in her drunken climax scene. And, of course, it helps that she looks absolutely hot in this one! Arya Babbar succeeds in making his character extremely annoying. Shabana Azmi is excellent, despite the fact that she doesn’t have the meatiest of roles.
+ It has its entertaining moments: You can’t help but let cackle at something as ludicrous as a gulabi bhains giggling on your screen. The “other” gulabi bhains is good for a chuckle as well. Other moments peppered throughout the film provide for some laughs along the way. But one scene that stands out in particular is Matru and Mandola’s drunken attempts at moving a well; both actors are extremely good in this sequence.
+ The Vishal Bhardwaj touch. Whether it’s through his witty wordplay, his brand of eccentricity, or his realistic and grungy setting, Vishal makes the village of Mandola and its characters come to life. His is a type of filmmaking that takes some getting used to, but if you’re a fan of his work, you’ll find enough Vishal Bhardwaj touches along the way to make the film, at the very least, worth a watch.
– The film moves too slowly. In fact, for the first half, you’re not really sure what’s happening or where this is going. Things start looking up when a (predictable) plot twist is revealed just before the interval; the second half, at least, moves a long at a better pace. But still, sequences are stretched out, scenes feel unnecessary, and despite it’s entertaining moments, the film is not engaging enough on the whole.
– It can get difficult to understand. A Vishal Bhardwaj film is anyway not everyone’s brand of cinema, but there are other things that can make Matru a little difficult to process. Meandering scenes, for one, make it difficult to stay focused. At other times, the Haryanvi dialect/accent can get in the way of understanding what a character is saying. In a few scenes, Pankaj Kapur mumbles whilst in his drunken stupor, making it difficult to figure out his line.
Go if you’re a fan of Vishal Bhardwaj’s type of cinema, or if you want to see some great performances by the lead trio.