Monday, January 14, 2013

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is nothing more than a tongue-twister in the plot, a street-play made into a movie

Vishal Bhardwaj tries hard to do many things. He tries to bring back the rustic Hindi heartland back into Hindi cinema, and he wants to do that in an interesting manner by inserting English-knowing and educated in English characters into the story.He wants to show that villages in the Hindi north India are raucous and risque, witty and vulgar, and he is so much enamoured of this aspect that he does not bother whether he can put those features to tell a good story and make a convincing movie. He believes that if you throw in the interesting elements of Hindi north India the movie will take care of itself. In Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola even the political commentary falls by the wayside because Bhardwaj is dazzled by his own wit. It does not matter to him that it is not connecting with the people. For example, the line from Macbeth of the drunken gatekeeper, "Who is there?" is inserted more than once into the dialogue but it fails to be an integral part of the dialogue or of the story. It is the director's private joke, and at one point the heroine is reading Macbeth and the hero calls the heroine Lady Macbeth as part of romantic banter! Pankaj Kapoor, a good example of how a good actor becomes bad. is forced to play a Dr Jekyll-and-Mr Hyde character of a ruthless landlord who envisions the village green as the hotbed of factories whose chimneys would be spewing smoke and there will be gleaming malls on the village green, and there is the other side of him who wants to defend the old style of farmers-attached-to-their-lands. The character wobbles even as Pankaj Kapoor wobbles in his acting, speaking dramatic English sentences one moment and slipping into affected Haryanvi dialect the next. The young Imran Khan has no option but to follow Pankaj Kapoor. Shabana Azmi plays the wily politician but without conviction or finesse. Pankaj Kapoor, Imran Khan and Shabana Aazmi play a caricatured version of their characters and their own acting selves. The only who strikes a note of authenticity despite being slotted into the now predictable vivacious girl is Anushka Sharma where she confronts her alcoholic father. But that is a fleeting moment. Of course, Bhardwaj is completely ineffective in conveying the political message. And he even pretends that he is not interested in the political question except as an aside because he is more interested in telling a rollicking story. The political protest turns into a hilarious song-and-dance affair, and perhaps Bhardwaj wants to keep it that way to make the chic urbanites interested in political protest. So, the Mao aspect is used for satirical purposes without the satirical or the rebellious punch. The film would have been an interesting enough street play but it does not work on the screen because Bhardwaj uses all the theatrical devices including repetitions, and he does not the cinematic medium to establish the depth of characters. They remain one-dimensional on a two-dimensional stage. There is nothing for the camera to do but look at the unfolding scene from a single viewpoint.

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