Vishal Bhardwaj is a disturbed man.
At least that’s what it seems. And that’s a good starting point. Filmmakers and artists should feel disturbed by their environment. Great art always comes out of that disturbance. So while rest of the bollywood seems to be living in Tumbuktoo with no connect to the issues that matters, and want you to remain equally stupid, blind and deaf with their corn-cola-crap combo, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is Vishal Bhardwaj’s first reaction to the changing world around us.
At a recent presser, Bhardwaj said that wo jo ugly malls…meri saansein aani band ho jaati hai wahan…uske andar…wahan ke shor se. As i watched the film where Pankaj and Shabana talk about his dreams on a hill top with dark clouds hovering over them, and a surreal sequence involving giant cranes, industries and malls comes up, it was eerie (wish they had avoided those tacky interior shots of the malls though). That’s the core of this whimsical film by Vishal Bhardwaj – development at what cost?
That doesn’t feature in our dictionary. The ones who are born and bought up in city never knew that it existed. We, the kids of small towns who moved to smaller houses in bigger towns, used to hear about it from our previous generation. Now, we are either comfortably numb, or understand the size of 1BHK – space is our only connect with “land”. And in this scenario, it’s quite easy to understand how difficult and daring it is to make a film like Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola. Land, farmers, farming, rainfall, pesticides, gobar, anaaz, anaaz ka bhav – they don’t exist in our films anymore. Not that it deserves all the credit just for the dare act. But, then, the industry and this country doesn’t understand “satire” either. We are still stuck at Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Even on the day when the film is out, the makers are selling it as “massy comedy drama”, like they did with the trailer and tried to hide the film. Massy comedy drama? Paincho paincho!
And that’s the tragedy of Vishal Bhardwaj and his films – audience. Maybe the blame lies with him too. Intention is always honest, filmmaking is always top notch, but he wants big budgets. Big budgets means only one thing – big stars. Doesn’t matter if they can act or not. With big stars and big budgets, you need the big box office numbers too. So? Package it as “vitamin ki goli“, or massy comedy drama, as they would like you to believe.
Last time when he made a film without any compromise, he delivered two of the best films of his career which are classics in more than one way – The Blue Umbrella and Maqbool. Since then it’s always been a slippery ground. This balancing act is a tough business. Emir Kusturi-ca’s absurdity is full throttle. Bhardwaj’s absurdity is bollywoodised where every solution lies in hero-heroine ki shaadi. Some of the best cinema across the world never looks for solutions, and trying for a quick fix is unpardonable. Problems/issues – that’s the muse of a true artist. And this is what i found completely indigestible in Matru – how suddenly everything comes together in the end. Maybe they meant it’s “massy comedy drama” by its climax. Aha, the trappings of commerce when the film has an anti-commerce stand. Irony! And watching this film funded by a corporate giant in a multiplex inside a mall. Irony ka baap!
But other than its hurried and hotchpotch climax, the film has so much more to offer and is deliciously wicked. Sit back, relax, and chew it bit by bit like Gulaabo does. This one needs jugaali. (i hope you know what it is) Make sure you watch the film in a theatre which has good audio system. Miss one line and you will miss the joke. But wait, if your idea of being funny is 50 plus actors making faces on the tune of pon pon, this movie is not for you. Call it quirky, whimsical or absurd, i wonder if Mao and moo moo will ever get together in one film. Or you can just buy some species because you like their music. Or a Gulaboo bhains in such a pivotal role. It’s Cattle-ship Communism!
The story is simple – man has a daughter. man has a servant. daughter has a lover with a corrupt mother. It’s a hindi film and so you know the end. In the illustrious filmography of Bhardwaj, this is his first political film. i remember an interview of his where he said script aapko nanga kar deti hai…aap kya sochte ho, wahan sab dikhta hai. And if that’s so, am happy to tell that one of my favourite filmmaker looks smart even when his soch is stark naked. He makes other filmmakers of his generation who are still busy doodling with matters of heart, look like nursery kids. Paincho, ab toh duniya dekho!
And hand over
all, i mean ALL the trophies to Pankaj Kapur. A slur here, a sigh there, a blank stare in this direction – this actor is pure delight on screen. He owns it and how! Forget his Jekyll and Hyde avatar, he is 100 times the Jekyll hidden in one Mr Hyde! The film belongs to him and it’s no wonder that Bhardwaj calls him his most favourite actor on this planet. It’s been ages since an actor made everyone look like lilliput. Even if nothing interests you, just watch the film for him. Actors of his age are put in a bracket called “character actors” in this country and you never know when someone like him can get another terrific role like this one and will do full justice to it. Shabana Azmi is the Politician-who-licks-Lollypop and is a perfect match for Kapur as his footsie partner. And like any other Bhardwaj film, this one also has the entire supporting cast setting up a great ambience and a distinct world where the story unfolds. Any film which has great performances by actors in small roles, or even just for one dialogue – that’s my kind.
Book your tickets now!
– by @CilemaSnob
(PS – Dear VB, why this big dhokha this time?)