Cast: Pankaj Kapur, Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma, Shabana Azmi, Arya Babbar
Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (MKBKM) mirrors the dangers of self-indulgence - of texting and ghee, alcohol and directorial profligacy. The film is based on a little gem of a story - a drunken Haryanvi feudal Harry Mandola (Kapur) wants to sell villagers' lands but is challenged by daughter Bijlee (Sharma), assistant Matru (Khan) and surprisingly, his own drunken self that turns softly socialist at the pour of a peg.
Some lines are dazzlers - "Bachpan se dekh raha hoon, tum dono ki jodi jaise Mukesh aur Nita Ambani!", Matru growling at Bijlee, "Apne andar ke jaali saaf karle - haunted house lagne lagi hai,", sinister CM Choudhary Devi (Azmi) chiding brainless beta Badal (Babbar), "Yahi farak hai tum mein aur Rahul, Sachin aur Jyotiraditya mein!" Indeed, lines like gulabi bhains, sapnon ka Lokpal and the say-no-more pancho-pancho tickle you outside the theatre too. Quite like Kapur's performance, as comfortingly elegant as a velvet dressing gown, his comedy silken as mumbling, drunken Harry, his anger tight like a cord as sober Mandola who dreams of money and won't let reality stand in his way - even if that means pledging his darling Bijlee to a loveless life with baba-log brute Badal (Babbar, delivering to the dot).
But here's my angst - this movie could have been so much more. Like champagne gone flat, the film's left lying about for too late, its plot meandering everywhere (including a plane ride through moon-lit clouds, ending in a Maoist meeting), the director so determined to have fun that often, the viewer doesn't. Sure, there are hilarious moments involving pink buffaloes and deep wells, Shakespeare and Sheila Dixit, even a laal rang ka kachcha, and it's all very clever - but where's the self-control? With its intellectual foundation and dramatic potential, MKBKM needed disciplined direction, not wandering shots, predictable banter or dull crudity.
On the upside, Azmi's performance is effortlessly evil until the last swig. Anushka plays her now-familiar loud-spunky-sexy babe, unconvincing but attractive as an eccentric rustic. But despite her Pond-girl entry in see-through top and teeny shorts, Mandola's heart-throb is Imran Khan who's red-hot (literally), stubble and a sardonic air pumping his sex-appeal. With its Trilbys and tractors, malls and Maoism, its stretch limo and smart-boy! lines, MKBKM could have been such a fun ride. But sadly, director ka bhi man dola, rather too often.