Pankaj Kapur with Imran- Anushka in 'Matru Ki Bijlee...'|Shabana Azmi

When the trailers for ‘Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola’ hit our screens, it was clear to see that it would be anything but conventional. The film۪s director, Vishal Bhardwaj, is known for eccentric films with unusual storylines like Kaminey۪ (2009) and 7 Khoon Maaf۪(2011) as his previous productions. Bhardwaj films have always had the Marmite taste about them; they are either loved or hated. Anushka Sharma۪s look in this film had the industry buzzing with her back tattoo and exceptionally small shorts gracing the posters for the film. The songs for the film were even more obscure with Oye Boy Charlie hitting the radio waves and creating a split opinion about the film before it even hit the big screen.

Pankaj Kapur with Imran- Anushka in 'Matru Ki Bijlee...'
Pankaj Kapur with Imran- Anushka in 'Matru Ki Bijlee...'

The film begins with a limousine in a field and sets the tone for the rest of the film. The luxury vehicle is owned by permanently drunk and wealthy landlord of a village, Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) who is an over ambitious and evil businessman when sober and a chaos causing generous man when drunk. His partner in crime is Matru (Imran Khan), a law graduate who is forced to return to the village when he can۪t find another job. Matru is in love with Bijlee (Sharma), a sassy and prone to mood swings Oxford-graduate who has also returned to the village. However Bijlee is promised to Baadal (Arya Babbar), the imbecile son of power-hungry corrupt minister Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi). With this backdrop of characters, the chaos begins with land takeovers and a secret project named Operation Mao Mao where the villagers are trying to prevent their farm land being turned into industrial land.

Honestly, it proved difficult not work out what the aim of this film was and it wasn۪t as memorable as it could have been. The characters are there with the feudal landlord and the unique relationship he has with his right-hand man but that just does not translate through either. The film does drag through the first half with some frankly ridiculous moments that just seem too far gone crazy to be true. Although Pankaj Kapur is brilliant as Mandola with his split personality, the script lets him down.

It is nice to see Khan play a character who is not purposefully boyishly charming and, in fact, it is his charmless character that makes him all the more charming in this film. He plays Matru really well and is convincing as the villager who is playing both sides to get what he wants; Bijlee. Sharma plays a role that she has played a million times over and does it well but it is simply pointless. Her character does not evolve beyond the very male sphere it is placed in. The real shining moment in this film is Azmi, she is great at playing the two faced politician who is seducing Mandola at one moment and showing her claws the next – manipulating people around her to do what she wants.

Shabana Azmi in 'Matru Ki Bijlee...'
Shabana Azmi in 'Matru Ki Bijlee...'

As a film, it is baffling and the first hour of the film drags with very few moments that grab your interest. After the first couple of ridiculous scenes, they stop surprising you and you start to lose hope that the film will improve. Kapur grabs hold of the second half and brings it to life having the last word by the end of the film. His pink cow hallucinations throughout the film stop being funny after the first couple of scenes but he still continues to be driving factor in the film. The storyline is clunky but Azmi۪s monologue on corruption strikes a chord. The random reciting of Shakespeare dialogue also made no sense too, as both Khan and Sharma۪s characters are as village-based as they come.

The soundtrack for the film is not very memorable but O Boy Charlie is the one that stands out with its peppy tone and it has been created for popular appeal. The costumes have been created perfectly in tone with the village setting in mind and Sharma۪s outfits – in particular – have been created with her character in mind perfectly.

Watch this film if you want to see something unconventional but don۪t expect any miracles. It is a crazy storyline and you have to accept it for what it is, a rollercoaster ride with no brakes at all.

BizAsia Showbiz Star rating: 2/5