Spoiler Alert: While I have tried to reveal as little as possible about the movie, but there might be some spoilers that may have slipped in as it’s four in the morning as I write this.
When Zee TV was launched in the early 1990s, I loved it for the fact that it ran interviews with film stars almost on a daily basis. For a generation who had grown up watching krishi darshan for entertainment, star interviews were fascinating. But the interviews soon got very boring. Most of the answers were dull, boring and repetitive, like the Hindi cinema of the 1990s.
The one answer that really got me irritated during those days was “It’s a very different kind of film.” In the annals of Hindi cinema a different movie is a movie which has already been made before. I still cringe when directors or actors say “bahut hatke picture hai”, or anything along those lines.
Directors who do make hatke pictures do not need to go around telling the world that their movie is a little hatke. Vishal Bhardwaj is one such director and his latest movie Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola (MKBKM) falls into that category. It is genuinely hatke. The only fair comparison I can make is with the 1983 comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (JBDY).
In a country which has basically two genres of film making, one being the boy finally meets girl genre, and the other being the angry young man who beats up the villain and finally gets the girl genre, it takes a lot of courage, commitment and knowledge to come up with what Bhardwaj and his team have been able to do with MKBKM. It is much easier to make a Rs 100 crore movie.
Cinema in India is not expected to tackle serious issues. And when it does it is not supposed to be entertaining. MKBKM beats that myth. The movie is full of contemporary issues that plague India. From politicians and industrialists conniving to take over the land of farmers to build special economic zones (SEZs), farmers under debt to the agri procurement system being in a mess, bureaucrats who have sold out to honour killings and to the oft asked question of when will the revolution come?
It also has an aggressive ambitious female politician and her useless son, on whom all the hope rests. And then there is also a gulabi bhains, a real first in the history of Hindi cinema, where a pink buffalo has a pivotal role in taking the story forward. Despite its serious undertones, MKBKM is a political satire which is a two and a half hour laugh riot like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron was before it. Released in 1983, JBDY started slow and found its audience over the years and is now one of the biggest hits on DVD. I hope MKBKM finds it audience much more quickly. It really deserves it.
Pankaj Kapoor gives the finest performance of his life in what is his first mainstream lead role. How many actors in their sixties (other than Bachchan and Naseeruddin Shan once in a while) get a lead role in the first place? Kapoor pulls off his dual faced performance with absolute panache.
The Bandra boy Imran Khan looks the rustic Haryanvi that he plays and does enough to take over the crown of the thinking woman’s sex symbol from the actor who now calls himself just Irrfan. And Anushka Sharma adds glamour to the entire equation. She also most probably becomes the first mainstream Hindi film heroine to mouth everybody’s favourite cuss word “b******d” and does it several times (Okay now don’t tell me Seema Biswas did that first in Bandit Queen. I know; I saw that movie, first day first show at Welfare Cinema in Ranchi. Two days later it was banned. And I saw it once again after the ban was lifted).
Shabana Azmi stands out in a small but a pivotal role. And she also has the scene which has the crux of the film and at the same time explains in a couple of minutes all that has been wrong with India since Independence. That scene on its own is a total paisa vasool for the movie.
The writing of the film is what makes it the classic that it will eventually become. To be able to deal with so many ‘serious’ issues plaguing India today and do it in a funny way, takes some doing. So take a bow Abhishek Chaubey and Vishal Bhardwaj. The dialogues by Vishal Bhardwaj are fantastic and there is a particular one in reference to a certain industrialist that you guys need to definitely watch out for (Okay sorry about this spoiler, but I just couldn’t help it).
Gulzar as always is in fine form writing the lyrics for the movie. Some of Gulzar’s best lines get written for the movies that Vishal Bhardwaj makes. The 2009 release Kaminey had the line “masoom sa kabootar naacha to mor nikla”. In MKBKM he matches that with “Jo nahi kiya, kar ke dekhna, saans rok ke, mar ke dekhna, yeh bewajah, be sabab, khamkha nahi.”
On the flip side the movie has too many cuss words (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and thus is likely to keep the family audiences away. They can obviously let their sons watch Kareena Kapoor singing “Main to tandoori murgi hoon yaar, gatak le mujhe alcohol se“. And they can let their daughters enjoy the misogynistic jokes in Khiladi 786 (or was it Rowdy Rathore, all Akshay Kumar movies look the same these days). The cuss words though are definitely not good for the children.
As for me as I leave the theatre I find myself humming “gulbai bhains jo teri dekhi…”. I see pink buffaloes everywhere. The Worli Seaface is full of them.
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)