I've waited a long time to write this review. Part of the reason for the delay was that I couldn't really explain the story. It’s that wacky. And partly because as time went by I kept bumping into people who either hated the film or didn’t like it or worse didn’t get it.
So, in place of a conventional review, I thought it would work better if I try to explain why is it that I adore Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola or as I like to fondly call it “Hero Ki Billi Ka Bewarda”.
I’ll just assume that you’ve seen the film. If you haven’t then just remember that when you do watch it, watch it with an open mind. It’s a Vishal Bharadwaj film no doubt, but one where he is trying something new and different. Remember when we the audience would make fun every time a director or actor would promote their film as being “different”? Well, this is that “different” film. It’s a film, but almost plays out like a play, with characters that take over the actors playing them.
As I sat down listing why is it that this film deserves a lot more attention or at least a cult status I came up with what I believe to be 7 good reasons, which are as follows;
Pankaj Kapoor – I think this is not a hard point to defend. The one thing I heard from all the haters of the film was that no matter the final outcome, Pankaj Kapoor was in his element throughout as a authoritarian landlord with a heart of gold once he got drunk (see, this is why it’s a difficult story to explain). Because almost everyone agreed on the brilliance of his acting in the film, I shall move along.
Gulabo – A pink cow, or was it a buffalo? Never mind, the fact remains I haven’t laughed so loud in a long time. Now, you may judge me and my taste in humour on this, but the imagined interactions between Pankaj Kapoor and Gulabo, which primarily consisted of her moving around, chomping on some hay, and making a “huh” sound were hysterical. The fact that our hero, and yes Pankaj Kapoor’s Harry is more of a hero in the film than Matru played by Imran Khan, only sees Gulabo when he is drunk, makes for some classic semi-slapstick humour that should be appreciated by everyone because it is a step above the nonsensical comedy we see in most films these days.
Role Reversals – Another wonderful aspect about the film is the way it tackles role reversals. Matru, who is a driver, is a lot more than that we discover when the film proceeds towards a somewhat predictable end. Harry on the other hand goes a complete 180-degree-transformation the moment a few bottles of alcohol enter his body. Or the best yet, Shabana Azmi’s DeviJi is a force to be reckon with as she manipulates her own roles as a politician according to her needs and wants. Take a deeper look into the film and there is some form of role reversal taking place within each character and that is bloody interesting.
Music – It’s Vishal Bharajwaj, so you are guaranteed music that will challenge your ears. Once again he produces something out of the ordinary with a very rustic feel to the sounds which amalgamate perfectly with the setting of the story. It might not be foot-tapping disco playing music, but it’s music that is sure to please your mind.
A Commentary on Everything – That is what the film is; a commentary on politics, on the way people behave, on rural life, on education, on drinking, on power, and on the divide that separates the rich from the poor and the powerful from the weak. It might attack these social issues in a very unconventional way, but herein lays the brilliance of the film.
Anushka Sharma – I have been saving the best for the last, well almost. May I be bold enough to say that Anushka Sharma remains one of the most versatile and talented actresses in the present day Indian film industry? While she has been type-casted as the “bubbly girl from Delhi” in most of her films, Vishal Bharadwaj takes that persona of hers and gives it a makeover of his own. The reason why I mentioned her, besides the fact that I may harbour a celebrity crush, is that she fits the character of Bijlee perfectly by bringing along the right amount of star power and enough rustiness to not make her stand out.
The Film – Hero ki Billi ... okay, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola triumphs as a film because it is quirky, unapologetic, absurd, and fun. Be it Gulabo or the African Dancers that are bought and brought to the village by the Politician Deviji’s son to impress Bijlee is not borderline but outright bizarre. Yet, when one looks at the complete picture and realize that this craziness is part of our lives, it is then that we truly appreciate everything that this film is trying to preach via the medium of entertainment.
So have a go at the film again or watch it if you haven’t still and don’t just get fooled by the cover. Dig a little deeper, search for a meaning behind every occasion and act, and you just might discover your next cult classic under there.