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Liquor is the key to world salvation – at least that’s what I figured from ‘Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola’, the new pro-alcohol dramedy now showing on screens.

The village – or considering the real estate, should I say town – of Mandola shares a common Bollywood dilemma; it is bullied by a ruffian with a bushy mustache and a big gun, who fancies the side effects of capitalism (because, as villains often believe, there is no such thing as too much money).

Flaming torches of revolution are struck soon enough (they rarely take a full length of a song to get going anyways), when two of the most blitzed drunkards in town (Imran Khan and Pankaj Kapur) crash a late night town meeting, and ‘short march’ to the steps of the villain’s mansion.

Their only problem: one of these drunkards IS THE VILLAIN leading this protest – and he only makes sense when he’s NOT sober.

Mr. Kapur is Mandola (yes, the town is named after him), the ego-driven town owner whose name and image – flaunting his upcoming industries – is erected on billboards in the middle of an expanse of wheat fields; and he has a drinking problem which brings out the Jekyll from his Mr. Hyde.

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His other Mandola is an empathetic, bohemian dervish, whose drunken flings have him hauling the town’s water well out of municipal limits (trust me: it is as silly as it sounds).

Matru (Mr. Khan) is his sort-of right hand man whose duties include limiting him to two rounds of alcohol; the night he rallied against himself, he had 42.

Clearly flabbergasted by his own outburst, he quits the next day, and his imagination becomes his biggest bully. His sudden alcohol strike-back is a smiling pink cow.

The cow – a fine work of CGI by Govardhan Vigraham – is the brand ambassador of the local liquor, and it is a perfect parallel icon for ‘Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola’: like the animal, it is quirky, absurd and slogging.

There’s another highbrow analogy here as well – while the film, directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, sounds like a fine romp, its problem is like Mandola’s alcoholism. It deviates when Mr. Bharadwaj gets full of himself.

Mr. Bharadwaj’s authorship (unlike so many in Bollywood) on ‘Mandola’ is absolute, and his aesthetic chops pop-up favourably than his last two endeavors (the deplorable 7 Khoon Maaf, and the half-deplorable Kameenay). ‘Mandola’, saved by its own flash, pomp and originality, sits a few short notches above the two.

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Nonetheless, Mr. Bharadwaj should re-learn the craft of story editing. As one of the screenwriters of the movie (his co-writer is Abhishek Chaubey), Mr. Bharadwaj lags around in his scenes, pushing them for greater effect at the expense of his marginally manufactured characters.

One of them is Anushka Sharma’s Bijlee, Mandola’s free-spirit, half-rebel daughter who flaunts short shorts, bare skin and tattoos like no tomorrow (one tattoo bordering at the end of her back reads “Daikh Magar Pyar Say” – “Look, but with Love”)

Ms. Sharma and Mr. Khan work their characters well (Mr. Kapur is hardly understandable when drunk; thank God there were subtitles).

She’s undomesticated because she has daddy issues (I don’t buy her reasons). He’s here because the film needs a central lead to rally the townsfolk (doesn't it always). She’s set to get married to a vile ‘pro-progress’ politician’s imbecilic son (the son is played by Arya Babbar, the mother is Shabana Azmi – and the conundrum of their trap is excellently pitched in the story). Everyone knows the town will win in the end (Hurray!).

So, why aren't we having fun?

Maybe because like the films’ characters, our attention is tightened to a short leash.

Directed, co-written and music by Vishal Bharadwaj (with lyrics by Gulzar); Produced by Vishal Bhardwaj Pictures. Released by Fox Star and Geo Films, ‘Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola’ is rated U/A.

Apart from keen visual effects (re: smiling fake cows and blitzed airplane flights), there’s smart humour, capitalist dreams and drunken runarounds. Who says bad behaviour and alcohol is bad? (apparently your doctor – and common sense).

Mohammad Kamran Jawaid has been professionally critiquing movies for a while now – say more or less ten years, exclusively for Dawn. About 400 reviews and features later (he stopped counting a long time ago), not being as young as he was before, he still feels the urge to write for another couple of centuries.

Despite living movies 24/7 (his company (http://kamranjawaid.com) helps filmmakers make movies), he is still truly, madly, deeply in love with cinema; the root cause of this anomaly requires further clinical trials. His twitter (http://twitter.com/kamranjawaid) reveals very little about him, other than him being the Senior Film Critic for Dawn.com.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (10)

Sam S
January 17, 2013 7:28 am
"the deplorable 7 Khoon Maaf, and the half-deplorable Kameenay" I have grown to love how this man writes
Mr.T
January 17, 2013 5:51 am
Why in world every media's only entertainment is bollywood ? Media always set up mind of people, they say we are showing what is there but what's not there why in world they are showing that ?
Garib Manus
January 17, 2013 4:11 am
The review states, "...‘Mandola’, saved by its own flash, pomp and originality, sits a few short notches above the two....". Original? Not sure! Check out Brecht's "Mr Puntila and his man Matti".
:)
January 17, 2013 3:56 am
Pankaj Kapoor is outstanding. We had a blast watching this movie. 3 hours of non stop laughter. :P
Buffalo singh
January 17, 2013 10:17 pm
Cows? Buffaloes ? Same difference sirji!!! :)
HNY2013
January 17, 2013 9:58 pm
Sir when Indian movies are not welcome in Pakistan why do you review it and for whom?
itzme
January 17, 2013 8:28 pm
plz dont watch d movie it suckz......unbearable torcher
Zeenat
January 17, 2013 1:12 am
Nice movie! I loved it, love from Pakistan!
Dr Khan
January 17, 2013 3:50 pm
Time is money. Watching indian movies and talking about them is wasting precious time. why one should see cheated indian movies when the original Hollywood ones are easily available?
Goshal
January 17, 2013 2:10 pm
nice review, very unbiased and objective, also usually reviewers are unable to comment on the technical aspects as they dont know enough, this review addresses these, clearly the reviewer has a keen eye for detail.
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