Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj
Starring: Pankaj Kapur, Shabana Azmi, Anushka Sharma, Imran Khan and Arya Babbar
All images courtesy of: http://www.glamsham.com
If there is one thing that I love about Vishal Bhardwaj’s cinema, it is his unflagging commitment to present his artistic vision with as little compromise as possible. Perhaps this is the purpose of any creative endeavour but for me, Bhardwaj seems to do it with an astounding confidence and clarity that comes across as effortless. Even though Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (MKBKM) is his most commercial film to date, Bhardwaj still manages to present his work in such a way to suggest he has not faltered on any aspect, whether it is visual or conceptual and in doing so, gives the viewer another fantastic film to watch.
Blending cultural, political and social dynamics seamlessly together, MKBKM engages the viewer from the start but in a subtle and well thought out manner – the dynamics are established in such a way that if each strand was to be separated, it would still be complete. For instance, Mandola’s battle with the bottle is done well as is the way his immersion in water brings about sobriety. Or Chaudhari Devi who believes her ambitions and methods are totally justified, resorting to manipulation and blackmail without a moment’s remorse. If I had to nitpick, I wasn’t keen on the Mao storyline and I also felt the second half was not as strong as the pre interval portion but despite this, MKBKM works with a wickedly black sense of humour and casual intelligence that entertains one in a very satisfactory manner.
This is Imran Khan’s best work to date – however, it isn’t a breakthrough performance nor will it change things up for him just yet but the fact he takes a risk and seems to do well under Bhardwaj’s direction are both positives. Anushka is good too but seems to have little to do here aside from playing a darker dimension to the girl next door – she certainly gives a good account of herself but again, this isn’t a watershed moment for her either. The real treats are Arya Babbar (yes, that is correct), Shabana Azmi and Pankuj Kapur who are wonderful in their respective roles. Babbar underplays his spoilt rich kid rather well whilst Azmi’s driven corrupt politician is fantastic. I also loved her scenes with Pankaj Kapur, whose powerhouse performance not only entertains but makes an unlikeable character very real and even sympathetic.
If you like Bhardwaj’s previous work, chances are you will really enjoy MKBKM too – with fantastic music and a good story peppered with moments of surreal comedy and pathos, it is hard not to fall for this film. I assumed the casting of Imran and Anushka is to bring a younger demographic to Bhardwaj’s cinema and I think the result of this is a film that is much more accessible than his other work without disappointing the old guard. All in all, a positive start to 2013 for Hindi cinema!