Can you visualize this scene-an amused looking, otherwise placid , cud chewing pink buffalo sitting on your bed baring its bovine teeth in a grin? Sounds crazy doesn’t it?
Well this is the sight that keeps popping up before Harry Mandola once he quits drinking. Deeply troubled, he consults his doctor who tells him that it is nothing but withdrawal symptoms on account of suddenly giving up liquor. The doctor’s overweight wife, dressed in pink T shirt and tights somehow assumes the discussion is about her! And that is how this whacky, crazy movie called “Matru Ki Bijili ka Mandola” progresses.
Hari Singh Mandola is an extremely rich man given to alcoholism who dreams of converting the agriculture land in and around his village into a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in connivance with the Chief Minister of the state. He has a chauffeur, Hukum Singh Matru a JNU graduate from the village whose job description includes, along with driving , preventing his boss from over indulgence in alcohol. In his drunken state Mandola is an absolutely different chap who loves cavorting around the village with his driver and instigating the villagers against the creation of the Special Economic Zone while in his sober moments he is the hard headed millionaire dreaming of chimneys billowing smoke and industrial bull dozers turning over fertile land. The millionaire has a daughter Bijli who is all set to marry the Chief Minister’s moron of a son. The marriage and the SEZ are all part of the deal that would bring the power of politics and money together.
In the midst of all this is an unknown activist who calls himself “Mao” and mobilizes the villagers into a resistance against the SEZ and giving away of their land.
Set in Haryana, the film is a farcical comedy with a serious message – about farmers losing their land in the name of “progress”! Vishal Bhardwaj once again holds the audience riveted as he takes us through rural Haryana using dialect that requires subtitling. The language is extremely colorful with every sentence sprinkled with expletives ( the most decent ones being “idiot” and “fool”). Pankaj Kapoor as Mandola is a treat to watch as he tries to deal with the pink buffalo. Imran Khan as Matru looks very convincing as a Haryavi villager complete with a beard, pyjamas and earrings. And Shabana Azmi as the power hungry Chief Minister can almost pass off for a real life CM of any Indian State! Anoushka as the carefree and fun loving Bijili swimming in shorts in a village pond or riding a bicycle in the village in her designer jeans looks crazily out of place but not out of character.
Vishal Bharadwaj takes some political digs when he gets Shabana as the CM to tell her son “ As a son I wish you would be more like Rahul, Varun or Jyotiraditya. Look at them they don’t give their parents any trouble” or when he gets her to organize a Yagna to get the rain gods send some rain to Haryana during the harvest season so that the wheat harvested would spoil, the farmers would be indebted to the banks and be forced to sell their land. “ I don’t want some Naxalite movement in my state” another quote made by the CM brings in shades of the Tata Nano Plant in West Bengal
The film takes on a theme that we no longer see these days in mainstream cinema- class struggle between the rich and poor and how the poor garner their resources to resist. This used to be a fairly common theme since the days of “Naya Daur” through “Namak Haram” . If “Naya Daur” had the race between the tonga and the bus with the tonga driven by Dilip Kumar winning over the machine, here we have the villagers mobilized by Imran Khan, using indigenous weapons like cow dung to attack a bunch of goons who come in the night with weedicide to kill their standing crop. Of course , this class struggle has a flavor unique to these times as Imran goes to meet his classmate from JNU who is the Managing Director of a big company that sells flour. He negotiates a deal on behalf of his friends in the village to get the company to buy the wheat produced ( as the middle men refuse to buy the grains because of threat from the CMs men). His friend closes the deal on his terms referring to him fondly as “ You communist bastard” while he in turn bids her good bye calling her equally fondly “ You bourgeois bitch”
I would not say that this is a great movie but certainly as far as entertainment goes, it is time and money well spent. A plot that is a bit impossible is made to appear convincing by the good acting and screen play. The rustic Haryanvi language adds to the flavor of realism. The climax in particular is very entertaining with a number of pink buffaloes entering and exiting the frame at various points. And ofcourse they did not use chemical paint on those poor animals. The director ensured that we all about knew it in the first scene itself through a public message that stated ,along with “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health” that the bovines were probably painted with natural dyes!
So friends go see this movie and enjoy three hours of craziness-which I must say is better than spending watching some soppy romance set in Switzerland!