A particularly well shot, lyrically written scene shows a power hungry Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) describing his dream to the flirtatious, sly politician, Shabana Azmi. They look down at a beautiful stretch of rich, harvested land which turns into a concrete mass of skyscrapers and malls as Mandola talks with animated fervour. Suddenly it starts raining heavily. Shabana laughs in wicked glee , commenting on the farmers’ approaching plight. Mandola looks down at the water soaked fields and freezes. He has just seen a pink buffalo.
The scene along with the title suggests everything about Matru Ki Bijli ka Mandola. It is symbolic ,crazy and baffling with imagination let loose and wild. Plus there are moo sounds of two kinds: one of the buffalo variety, the other of Mao type. To get the moo bit, one needs to first adapt to Vishal Bhardwaj brand of absurd theatre humour and style.
After Maqbool, Omkara, Kaminey and Saat Khoon Maaf, certain elements are now expected from a Vishal Bhardwaj film. Plenty of crazy but entertaining theatrics, Shakespearan tone if not an adaptation, eccentric characters, rustic backdrop,fabulous music and choreography which is so celebratory that one does not care about figuring it out. Its enough to simply sit back in amusement and indulge some imagination.
The story revolves around the usual landlord and farmer conflict.A village in Haryana, is named after rich landlord, Mandola (Pankuj Kapur).Mandola by day, is a capitalist who fleeces every farmer of their birthright , with dreams of turning the rich , harvested land into a ‘progressive ‘industrial belt. By night, he is an alcoholic communist who gulps down 42 plus pegs, drives over liquor shops with his limousine along with his driver accomplice, Matru (Imran Khan).He is capable of taking off in planes in drunken stupor. When the plane catches fire, he uses it to light his cigar before jumping off with a parachute. At night he is also his own enemy, the farmers’ spokesperson rebelling against Mandola,the calculating landlord.
Mandola has an equally crazy daughter who dives into lakes in skimpy tshirts and shorts to entertain the villagers. She is engaged to the chief minsiter’s son(Arya Babbar) as part of Mandola’s land deal with the politician. She revels in what Matru, her childhood friend, refers to as her ‘Meena kumari complex”.Matru is the only village savior around.
Written and directed by Vishal Bhardwaj (Screenplay co writer,Abhishek Chaubey ),the film, intelligent in parts, revolves around Mandola’s alcoholic antics and his fear, symbolized by the pink buffalo. However, Mandola’s crazy characterization takes over the story completely, diverting often from its Maoist content as well as Matru and Bijli who happily prance around in gay abandon. So much so that it becomes a pleasure to simply watch the fun all three actors are clearly having in the craze contest. Bhardwaj’s dialogues, as usual,with elements of dry wit,political references and rustic abuse, help in sustaining interest in the otherwise meandering plot.
Pankaj Kapur as Mandola, is magnificent except when he mumbles indecipherable Haryanvi which is most of the time. Imran Khan, despite, slipping well into a havy beard, mooch and turban, is out shadowed often by the fantastic talent around him.
Anushka Sharma as Bijli, shines, shimmers and thunders her way through every song and scene, however ridiculous it is. Shabana Azmi as the scheming politician is wicked to the core; her sharp,cold eyes are enough to freeze animals wilder than buffaloes. Gulabo, the pink buffalo, rules.
Gulzar’s lyrics match Bhardwaj’s foot tapping music with lines like ..”nazar mein tu hi tu hai, tu meri Timbuktu hai…Oye boy charlie”.
Watch this film for its half amusing and imaginative Leftist take. Also, to catch Pankuj Kapur sitting astride a pink buffalo whose presence continues to baffle.