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Review: 'Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola' is energetic, whimsical

'Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola' stars Pankaj Kapur as a man divided against himself in a film that asks questions about India's future but doesn't lack for comedy.

January 14, 2013|By Robert Abele
  • Actors Imran Khan, left, and Anushka Sharma of "Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola."
Actors Imran Khan, left, and Anushka Sharma of "Matru Ki Bijlee Ka… (Getty Images )

In the populist Bollywood romantic comedy "Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola," it appears two men hold sway over the fortunes of a threatened feudal village: They just happen to reside in the same body.

By day wealthy industrialist Harry (Pankaj Kapur) is gung-ho about eradicating his land's wheat fields and building a car factory, cheap housing and a mall. By night, Harry gets so hammered he'll readily stir angry farmers to rebel against his own plans.

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Co-writer/director Vishal Bhardwaj's attractively made movie asks some pointed questions about what an emergent India should look like as an economic powerhouse, but the fun lies mainly in the classically structured comic setup: A power-consolidating marriage between Harry's politically unaware daughter Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) and the doltish son of a crafty politician (Shabana Azmi); the flirting between Bijlee and her dad's limo driver Matru (Imran Khan), who secretly organizes the farmers; and the obvious quasi-vaudevillian pleasure Kapur is having shifting between exploitative, cruel sobriety and truth-telling intoxication.

Judicious editing could have helped consolidate the joyfulness at the expense of occasionally repetitive narrative flab, but for the most part "Matru" is neatly energetic, a mix of screwball whimsy and softball seriousness.

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