Reviewing the Reviews: Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

14 Jan,2013

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola


Key Cast: Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma, Pankaj Kapur

Written By: Vishal Bharadwaj, Abhishek Chaubey

Directed By: Vishal Bharadwaj

Produced By: Vishal Bharadwaj, Fox Star Studios


Reactions to Vishal Bhardwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola would confound readers of reviews, who decide on their weekend movie fix after glancing at the star ratings, if not actually carefully reading, comparing and evaluating reviews in various publications.


A couple of reviews gushed, gave it four star reviews, some gave it milder raves and three stars, while most expressed disappointment and stuck with 2 or 2.5. The public, of course, snubbed it outright. had two critics with divergent views. Aseem Chhabra was unimpressed. “The unfortunate thing is that just as Mandola’s character, Bhardwaj’s MKBKM also has a split personality. At times, the film is hilarious, and reminds you how much fun Bollywood cinema can be, and at other times, it is dull, disappointing, and quite annoying. At times, the film attempts to discuss some very important and pressing issues facing India, and challenges the country’s bright, shining image, while at other times the film is muddled, confused and messes up its good intentions.”


And Raja Sen was almost jumping with joy, “It’s theatrical, insightful, wickedly clever and, often, too funny to even laugh at, if you know what I mean. It is also, as may be apparent, an utterly random movie, sometimes jarringly uneven and frequently meandering. And yet it works, because it is, at every single step, unexpected and surprising. Even the most seemingly slapdash of scenes appears magical when the work of a master is evident. This film swings with two sultans, each spurring the other on toward a sillier spectacle, a sight of grand lunacy.”


Rajeev Masand of IBNLive joined Sen’s 4 star club. “If it’s true – what director Vishal Bhardwaj would have us believe in that cheeky anti-smoking disclaimer that precedes Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola – that too much of anything, even water and lemon, is harmful, then the filmmaker evidently doesn’t practice what he preaches. This outrageous comedy after all shows little concern for our health as it delivers laugh after side-splitting laugh. Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola might well be described as Bhardwaj’s holiday movie – a mad story with crazy characters – but fortunately for us, even in a light mood, the director can be counted on to say interesting things.


Anupama Chopra of Hindustan Times was underwhelmed. “It’s ambitious but also indulgent and inconsistent in tone, making the film a jerky ride. Some stretches are clunky, but just when you’re starting to get restless a terrific scene grabs you – like Chaudhari Devi’s creepily mesmerising monologue on why corruption is essential. Azmi is wonderful, as is Kapoor, who manages to be, in equal parts, childlike, endearing and nasty. But the big surprise is Imran Khan, who sheds his urban, chocolate boy baggage. It’s an exciting transformation. Despite this, Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola feels like a puzzle in which all the pieces don’t fit. Its idiosyncrasies are both its strength and its undoing.”


Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express was unmoved too, “The Haryanvi accents which are decidedly and uniformly faux. And the mystery of the pink buffaloes. What was that again? Is the revolution really upon us? The film passed me by in the first hour. It enticed me back again in the second half. But not enough to make me forget the inert prologue, which is minus drama, which is Bhardawaj’s true forte. Iss Matru aur uski Bijlee se mann kam dola.”


Surprisingly Srijana Mitra Das of The Times of India was unusually unkind. “This movie could have been so much more. Like champagne gone flat, the film’s left lying about for too late, its plot meandering everywhere (including a plane ride through moon-lit clouds, ending in a Maoist meeting), the director so determined to have fun that often, the viewer doesn’t. Sure, there are hilarious moments involving pink buffaloes and deep wells, Shakespeare and Sheila Dixit, even a laal rang ka kachcha, and it’s all very clever – but where’s the self-control? With its intellectual foundation and dramatic potential, MKBKM needed disciplined direction, not wandering shots, predictable banter or dull crudity.”


Baradwaj Rangan of The Hindu commented, “Bharadwaj gives the impression of having worked hard – really, really hard – on these scenarios and the screen drips with sweat; we are torn between admiring the thought and effort that’s gone in and being exasperated by how it all comes together. Despite the entertaining bits off and on, I came to the conclusion that Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola wasn’t doing it for me when ISRO scientists, echoing Shirish Kunder’s Joker, descend on Mandola after a “UFO landing”; the scene ends with a sight-impaired kid imploring television viewers to keep an eye out for his missing underwear. ”


Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV sat on the fence. “It is a spirited comedy that has its heart in the right place. It has something to say about what is going on in this country in the guise of a skewed development model in which farmers thirst for electricity to irrigate their land while humongous shopping malls a few kilometers away glitter all day long. Unfortunately, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is a bit like the microlight two-seater that one of the three eponymous characters, driven by drunken bravado, decides to pilot. Sure enough, it crash lands because his flying wherewithal is limited to getting the aircraft airborne – he has no idea how to bring it back to terra firma. Bhardwaj’s first all-out comedy faces pretty much the same plight. It soars and hits the high gears with aplomb, but does so only occasionally. The eventual landing resembles a nosedive more than anything else. If not an outright wreck, the result isn’t always a pretty sight.”


Sanjukta Sharma of Mint raged, “Satire and black humour tell the most intensely political of stories – stories that often mirror the ideologues behind them. The works of Emir Kusturica, the Serbian film-maker from Drvengrad, or the Czech master of satire Jirí Menzel, seamlessly merge absurdity with satire. Bhardwaj’s template in Matru… is derivative of this tradition, but his narrative is far from seamless.”


Janhavi Samant of Mid-day was not amused either, “If only good intentions made a good film, Matru is a masterpiece. The story has warm, real characters, it arms the honest against the dishonest and although simplistic, it has much social relevance, especially in today’s corrupt times. But even though the film has panjo, it seriously lacks punch.”


Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror liked it up to a point. “But the film begins to falter in the third act when Bhardwaj decides to let up and bring a familiar territory to the audience. He gives you a conventional love triangle that has been seen before in every second movie featuring a love triangle and brings token seriousness to the social aspect rendering it blunt. And he decides to give it time, thereby slowing down proceedings to spell out everything. It’s frustrating to come so far and then do an about turn.”


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