Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola Movie Review by Taran Adarsh


One looks forward to a Vishal Bhardwaj film for varied reasons. For this supremely talented storyteller/music composer, stories have preceded stars, which, to be brutally honest, is a rarity in Bollywood. Though he has worked with A-list names, he’s *not* made it a compulsion or regularity. Additionally, one cannot accuse him of peddling saccharine sweet romances, brain-dead comedies or fancy family dramas to his spectators. Experimenting with varied genres, pushing the envelope vis-à-vis the subject matter of the film and often focusing on small-town stories has been his forte. Also, the soundtrack remains fresh in your memory, even after his movies make an exit from cinema halls.

With MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA, Vishal goes to the Indian hinterland yet again to narrate a brand new story. This film, like some of his past works, reflects the rustic flavor of villages/small towns. The supremely talented film-maker is often accused of making ‘dark films’, but MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is an exception. Vishal tackles a serious issue, but makes sure he injects dollops of humor this time. Be forewarned, the humor is not the leave-your-brains-at-home kind of stuff that we get served in most films. It’s quirky and unconventional.

MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is definitely not Vishal’s best work, though the master touch is evident in several sequences. The story barely moves in the first hour; there are stretches when the account begins to blur. Thankfully, the sequence of events and some exceptional moments in the post-interval portions save the film from tripping. At the same time, I wish to add that the film could’ve done with some judicious trimming for a stronger impact. It’s way too lengthy!

Set in the rustic surroundings of a village in Haryana, MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is about Harry Mandola [Pankaj Kapur], a wealthy industrialist who loves his drink, his daughter Bijlee [Anushka Sharma] and the unusual bond they both share with Harry’s man Friday, Matru [Imran Khan]. Much to her father’s delight, Bijlee is all set to marry Baadal [Aarya Babbar], the son of a powerful politician Chaudhari Devi [Shabana Aami]. This alliance, which is far from just being a simple union of two young people, becomes the seed for a story that brings twists and turns in the lives of Matru, Bijlee and Mandola.

One has come to expect genuinely hatke stuff from Vishal Bhardwaj and MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is no exception. Right from the casting to the setting, the plotline and the twists, even the music… you can’t draw parallels with any movie you may have watched. That’s one of the significant reasons why this motion picture thrives. But there’re shortcomings galore… The erratic writing [screenplay: Abhishek Chaubey, Vishal Bhardwaj; script consultant: Sabrina Dhawan], a few sequences are stretched for no reason, the uneven pacing distracts you from staying focused. In addition, like I pointed at the very outset, the humor is quirky and may not appeal to the hoi polloi. The Haryanvi dialect is another deterrent. The lingo remains faithful to the flavor of the region it chooses to depict, but a section of viewers will find it difficult to comprehend what the on-screen characters are expressing at times.

Having said that, it’s tricky to find any slipup in Vishal’s implementation of the material. The handling of a number of sequences is exemplary, especially the dramatic ones. Also, a few lines [dialogue: Vishal Bhardwaj] are truly side-splitting, not distasteful, although a few words [‘Paincho’] may appear offensive. In fact, there are several gems in the narrative, making it difficult to pick just one and highlight here.

Vishal teams up with ace wordsmith Gulzar yet again. The duo has always believed in experimentation and MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is no exception. He amalgamates folk and western rhythms to create tunes that sound so distinct, but are ear-pleasing nonetheless. The soundtrack may not be mainstream [like ‘Dhan-Te-Nan’ or ‘Darling’], but is pleasant nonetheless, with two standout tracks — the title number and ‘Oye Boy Charlie’. Cinematography [Kartik Vijay Thyagarajan] is top notch.

Each and every actor fits in delightfully in the structure of the tale. After DELHI BELLY, Imran faces the biggest challenge of his career as he attempts to portray a Haryanvi in MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA. By transforming his looks and working hard on his dialect and body language, Imran shuns the chocolate boy image with this performance. The act takes him to another level, in a different league altogether. Anushka has emerged one of the finest actresses of her generation. Her character is truly complex: She’s confident and mischievous, yet vulnerable and naïve. Her smoldering looks coupled with a nuanced performance will win her praise. Her styling too catches your eye.

Pankaj Kapur enacts the flamboyant and boisterous part with gusto. The veteran goes all out for this role — singing, dancing, jumping into a pool — and it is this enthusiasm, besides a splendid performance, that merits the highest praise. Shabana Azmi is magnificent, as always. Her character changes colors constantly, an act only a powerful actress could’ve essayed with expertise, and Shabana takes to it like a fish takes to water.

Aarya Babbar is a complete revelation. He gets a meatier role this time and he handles it exceedingly well. Navneet Nishan is alright.

On the whole, MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA holds your attention in parts, but that’s not enough. The first half is lackluster, while the post-interval part catches some steam. However, the excessive length plays a spoilsport. Below expectations!


  1. sputnik 9 years ago

    Times of India Review by Gaurav Malani

    Pretty much nothing happens in the stagnant first half and by interval the viewer seems quite uncertain as to where the film is leading. A farmer revolution takes precedence in the second half as Matru’s alter-ego, Mao guides the villagers. But their methods are so convenient and unintelligent that you wonder what’s going on! And when the writers realize there is practically no way out of industrialization issues that the film primarily tackles, they expediently change tracks to culminate the narrative into a love story.

    The pace is intentionally slow and scenes are purposely protracted, adding to the synthetic shade of the film. Beyond his grungy look, there is nothing rustic about Imran Khan who also often switches accents. While Bharadwaj often comes up with original and attention-grabbing dialogues in accordance with the countryside setting of his films, here he remains in comfort zone and the Haryanvi flavour is restricted to the formulaic bawdi to bhootni ke nuances. And with the love story resorting to cliches galore, the chemistry between Imran and Anushka is palpably missing. Even the mandatory smooch scene doesn’t help.

    The immensely talented Pankaj Kapur seems over-prepared for his character here and adds extra intensity that often goes in theatrical zone. Yet he is far more dependable than the other two title characters. Imran Khan is one-dimensional and his character, too, is clearly half-baked. Anushka Sharma doesn’t get much scope here and is often over-expressive. Arya Babbar is supposed to act like a buffoon and is awfully irritating. Even Shabana Azmi can’t save the sinking ship.

    Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola comes across as a wannabe attempt by Vishal Bharadwaj. His most disappointing and uninspiring work!

    Verdict: Poor

  2. Bored 9 years ago

    @sputnik – ur cover page is filled with MKBKM reviews – maybe a better idea to have a sincle collection post for reviews like the BO thread?

    • sputnik 9 years ago

      Yeah may be that would be a good idea.

      I had already decided sometime back that I will only post Taran, Masand and Anupama Chopra reviews as separate posts as they are the more popular reviewers. I wanted the rest of the reviews be posted as comments in the Taran Adarsh post.

      cr7 posted Raja Sen’s review and he does not post that often so I did not want to discourage him from posting 😀

      May be Anupama Chopra’s review can also be posted as comment too as it is just a 3 min video.

  3. sputnik 9 years ago

    Telegraph Review by Pratim D. Gupta

    Vishal’s gibber jabber

    His last film had seven murders. No one’s killed in the new one. Oh wait… no one on screen that is!

    Vishal Bhardwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is modelled character for character on Bertolt Brecht’s 1940 play Mr Puntila and His Man Matti. Maybe because Brecht’s play was inspired from a Finnish folk tale, the writer-director-producer didn’t feel the need to credit the playwright.

    Like Puntila, Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) is a Jekyll-Hyde guy, who in his sober state in the daytime is the mean machine Harry and at night “charioted by Bacchus and his pards” is the freaky friend Haria.

    Matti is Matru (Imran Khan) here, Mandola’s chauffeur who in the Jeeves-Wooster tradition manipulates his master, making the leftist people’s person do things in the dark that the right capitalist pig regrets the next morning. Because Matru has an alter ego too — Mao (yes, literal is the tone here), who came back to the Haryana village after his Delhi college degree to start a revolution.

    Whether Harry or Haria is the real Mandola is to be decided by his daughter Bijlee’s (Anushka Sharma) impending marriage. She has managed to form an unholy love triangle herself: With the bourgeoisie — Badal (Arya Babbar), the puppet son of politician Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi) — and the proletariat — the childhood buddy Matru.

    Like Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai, which was also an adaptation (officially from Vassilis Vassilikos’s Z), MKBKM’s take-off issue is land-grabbing (the bad Mandola wants to take away the villagers’ land and build a factory there) but unlike Shanghai, MKBKM, as it trudges along, decides to address every issue the country has faced, is facing

    and will ever face. As the Big Momma in khadi kurti chants out in one poetic monologue that power is passe; it’s about pragati play.

    Add to that India Shining speech a song listing all the scams out there and voila, you have your message-movie, the provocative social commentary by a thinking filmmaker. And since he has to also spell cool, the comic satire is punctuated with guffawing pink buffaloes and Kusturica Brass Band parties.

    But Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is also unapologetically uninteresting and infuriatingly indulgent. It’s like this all-knowing self-conscious hodgepodge that laughs at its own jokes and keeps patting itself on the back. It is Vishal Bhardwaj’s No Drinking, which, like Anurag Kashyap’s No Smoking, is so full of itself that it just cannot fathom the fall.

    There are real fun moments sure, like when Mandola and Matru go for “a night walk” on a chopper that catches fire or when Mission Mao Mao ends in a cow dung attack. But MKBKM is never consistent in tone and the comedy cape often comes off exposing the familiar innards of a political movie. And the solution specified is so simplistic and sudden, that it is really a clichéd cop-out.

    The best thing about the film is Pankaj Kapur. Playing “do aadmi… ek sharaab se pehle, ek sharaab ke baad”, the actor is a riot in every frame he appears. Part Don Corleone — the good father in the wrong business — and part Don Quixote — the well is the windmill here — Mandola’s methods and madness are brought to life with exquisite timing and endearing timbre by Bhardwaj’s favourite actor.

    Kapur’s gestures are enough to have you rolling in your chair laughing even if you don’t understand half the things he is saying. The Haryanvi accent mixed with the drunken delivery makes it almost impossible to make out some of the words Mandola’s Haria avatar is chewing.

    Yes, like it often happened in Omkara. Why can’t the writer-director provide subtitles if he can dole out lines and lines of titles (from one medium popcorn is 1000 calories to acidity alert due to a (post-meal walk!) to mock the cigarette disclaimer at the start of the movie? Even Batman needs subtitles in Bharat.

    Or maybe the gibber jabber is deliberately done to slip in words,which may actually be “pancho” but you know what it sounds like; where “teri Maa ki…” ends with “papad” but doesn’t sound that edible. What the fun, bhootnike?

    If Bhardwaj’s Blue Umbrella man is brilliant, his Makdee woman is a delight too. Shabana Azmi plays the evil politician with guile and glee, making a sinister maa-beta tag-team with an at-ease Arya Babbar.

    Imran’s adequate but this is going to be no desi career-bender for the Khan boy. Pyaar se dekho yaa gusse se, with tattoo or without, Anushka seems to be playing the same girl in every movie.

    The songs are picturised emphatically even though the tunes would remind you of earlier Vishal Bhardwaj songs. Kartik Vijay Thyagarajan shoots the film with heart and in glorious colours.

    But the film caresto remind you that “no chemical paint was used” on the gulaabi bhains!

    In a scene towards the end of the film, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is quoted and the premise even used to pull off a plot point. And you’re immediately reminded of the brilliant film that the same director had adapted from the play at the start of his career.

    What happened to that Vishal? Come on, this is more like Maqbool Ki Bhardwaj Ka Rasgulla!

    Matru ki bijlee ka mandola (u/a)
    Director: Vishal Bhardwaj Cast: Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma, Pankaj Kapur, Shabana Azmi, Arya Babbar Running time: 150 minutes

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