Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola

Agreeably amusing but unduly extended, "Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola" suggests what might have resulted had Rodgers and Hammerstein lived long enough to attempt a Broadway musical about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

With: Pankaj Kapur, Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma, Shabana Azmi, Arya Babbar. (Hindi, English dialogue)

Agreeably amusing but unduly extended, “Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola” suggests what might have resulted had Rodgers and Hammerstein lived long enough to attempt a Broadway musical about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Helmer/co-scripter Vishal Bhardwaj has concocted a feel-good trifle about a clash between rapacious capitalists and resourceful farmers that includes at least one passing allusion to India’s real-life Naxalite militants. But fleeting topical references do little to elevate the pic above the level of standard-issue Bollywood song-and-dance. As such, it should appeal to undemanding devotees in international theatrical and homevid release.

Pankaj Kapur robustly overplays the lead role of Harry Mandola, a wealthy industrialist who, while sober, plots to gain control of farmlands surrounding his Haryana village to build an automobile construction plant. When he’s drunk, however, Harry is a more of a fun-loving, freewheeling populist. Indeed, at one point, the seriously inebriated industrialist actually leads a demonstration against his own land-grabbing scheme — with a little help from Matru (Imran Khan), his faithful young driver, who secretly moonlights as a farmer-rousing political activist known as Mao.

Popular on Variety

To advance his grand ambitions during stretches of sobriety, Harry is playing footsie — sometimes, quite literally — with a corrupt politician (Shabana Azmi) who expects to solidify their long-term partnership by having her hunky dullard of a son (Arya Babbar) marry Harry’s beautiful daughter, Bijlee (Anushka Sharma). But Bijlee, a tattooed free-spirit who’s not nearly as flighty as she initially appears, can’t help noticing that Matru may be a more simpatico soulmate.

As predictable as it is derivative, “Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola” borrows bits and pieces from a wide variety of sources (Kapur’s hard-drinking Harry recalls the mood-swinging millionaire of Chaplin’s “City Lights”) to fashion a lightweight comedy that nevertheless would benefit from judicious trimming. An especially tedious scene, involving Harry matching wits with a fountain in the village square, is only the most obvious candidate for deletion.

On the other hand, the leads are engaging, the songs (with lyrics by “Slumdog Millionaire” Oscar winner Gulzar) are pleasant, and a few of the wackier touches — particularly scenes involving real and imagined pink buffaloes — are likely to generate smiles, if not belly laughs. Glossy production values are up to Bollywood standards.

Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola


Production: A Fox Intl. Prods. release of a Fox Star Studio presentation of a VB Pictures production. Produced, directed by Vishal Bhardwaj. Screenplay, Abhishek Chaubey, Bhardwaj.

Crew: Camera (color), Kartik Vijay Thyagarajan; editor, Sreekar Prasad; music, Bhardwaj; lyrics, Gulzar; production designers, Subrata Chakraborty, Amit Ray, Punita Grover; costume designer, Payal Saluja; sound (Dolby Digital), P.M. Satheesh; casting, Honey Trehan; assistant director, Rahil Patel. Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Houston, Jan. 12, 2013. Running time: 147 MIN. (I: 68 MIN., II: 79 MIN.)

With: With: Pankaj Kapur, Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma, Shabana Azmi, Arya Babbar. (Hindi, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Father

    'Father': Film Review

    “Father” begins with a mother. Dragging her two sullen, uncomprehending kids along with her, Biljana (Nada Šargin) strides onto the grounds of the factory from which her husband was let go more than a year before and harangues the foreman about the severance package they still have not received. The children are hungry, she wails, [...]

  • Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm

    'Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street': Film Review

    In 1985, New Line rushed out a sequel to its breakout horror hit of the prior year. But while commercially successful enough, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” was initially disliked by mainstream horror fans, then later won cult status, for the same reason: It struck many as “the gayest horror film of [...]

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    HBO Seeks Dismissal of Michael Jackson Estate's Suit Over 'Leaving Neverland'

    HBO urged an appeals court on Friday to throw out litigation brought by the Michael Jackson estate over the 2019 documentary “Leaving Neverland.” HBO and the Jackson estate have been locked in a legal war ever since the premium cable network agreed to run the documentary, which chronicles child sexual abuse allegations against Jackson. The [...]

  • Denzel Washington

    Film News Roundup: Denzel Washington-Rami Malek Thriller Set for Early 2021 Release

    In today’s film news roundup, a Denzel Washington-Rami Malek thriller gets a release date, “Escape Room 2” gets moved, Paramount sets a double feature, “So Cold the River” wraps and the Sonoma Film Festival unveils its lineup. RELEASE DATES Warner Bros. has set the Denzel Washington-Rami Malek police thriller “The Little Things” for a Jan. 29, [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Writers Guild Says It Helped Negotiate 100 Deals for Agent-Less Members

    The Writers Guild of America has asserted that it has assisted in negotiating more than 100 deals in recent months for members without agents. The missive from the WGA West board of directors comes nearly a year after the guild leaders ordered their 15,000 members to fire their agents if the agents had not agreed [...]

  • the jesus rolls

    Émilie Simon Contributes Flamenco/Gypsy Vibe to John Turturro's ‘The Jesus Rolls’

    For French musician Émilie Simon, the flamenco-meets-gypsy vibe writer-director John Turturro was seeking for the soundtrack to his movie “The Jesus Rolls” turned out to be in her musical and genetical DNA. “This music originally comes from where I grew up in the south of France,” says the 41-year-old electronic musician, who has released five [...]

  • My Hero Academia Heroes Rising

    'My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising' ADR Director on Adapting the Anime for a U.S. Audience

    “My Hero Academia” has officially Detroit Smashed into North American theaters. Sony Pictures Television’s Funimation released “Heroes Rising” in the U.S. on Wednesday, grossing $2.5 million on its opening day. Theaters are showing the film, a standalone entry in the popular superhero anime based on the manga, with options for either subtitles or with an [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content