Chandigarh based Vijendra Trighatia is a film buff and writes extensively on cinema.
Chammak Challo was muttering angrily under her breath which always sets alarm bells ringing. “Yo girl, what’s eatin ya” me asked. “All work and no pikcha makes me an angry babe” she repartees gangham style. It suddenly occurred to me that we had been ignoring one of our prime duties of patronizing Bollywood fables, may they be good, bad or downright stupid. Mattroo Bijli sounded delightfully off beat and so the babe and babe’s friend Ranu and babe’s friend’s friend..me.. muttered..oops motored off to nearest PVR hangout. The first thing that put me off was that from being a nice bright round Mattrroo, Ranu is on a serious diet and slowly turning into a pea. I kept tempting her with the various goodies on the display counter but she wouldn’t budge from her resolve. Very strict disciplinarian she is and her big eye look can stop the Shatabdi Express anytime. What is going to happen with the likes of me who never succumb to anything except temptation? Never the mind, I said to myself, and armed with pop corn and a hot dog and a cola we went inside the hall for the shenanigans of the real Mattroo.
Much before the ilk of Ektaa Kapoor and company captured the idiot box with their moronic serials with their triple repeat style of dialogues of dumb bahus and scheming mater-in-laws, the much maligned Doordarshan sparkled with some iconic serials the content quality of which still remains unsurpassed. And the show that stole my heart was the comedy classic “Philips Top 10” hosted by the talented twosome Satish Kaushik & Pankaj Kapur. The bunny dunny exchange of barbs and humour had most of us potatoes falling out of our couches. Ever since I have been a regular fan of Pankaj Kapur and he has never failed to disappoint. But quirky as most passionate artists are he apparently took a long sabbatical and is now back with a super bang.
After the dark dramas based on Shakespeare’s stories Vishal Bhardwaj has dished out a comedy which is perhaps best suited to Punju tastes and the three of us laughed our guts out. The story is supposed to be set in the Haryana country side which is hardly distinctive apart from occasional usage of the Haryanvi slang. Pankaj Kapur plays Mandola, a millionaire alcoholic who shuttles from being a ruthless land grabber with concrete jungles in his eyes to a whacky nut case (sigh, so close to my heart) depending upon the number of liters of Gulabo (country liquor for the uninitiated) he has imbibed. Imran Khan, the Matroo, is his JNU educated man Friday and partner in crime who also moonlights as a desi revolutionary. The crazy trio is completed by Anoushka “Bijli” Sharma who takes her own sweet time in deciding where her heart lies and there are no prizes for guessing the right answer. After a long time one also has the pleasure of seeing Shabhana Azmi as a symbol of the corrupt builder politico nexus. She charms in her evil avatar.
The story dwells upon the attempt to usurp the mortgaged land of the poor villagers which is sought to be executed while Mr. Mandola is sober who promptly gently slips into his alter ego of a naughty buffoon do-gooder after a bout with bacchanalian debauchery. Not a very encouraging advertisement for the Alcoholic Anonymous but he manages to buckle you to your seats. His miserable attempts at sobriety only make him delusional to the point of paranoia prompting him to hit the bottle again. The rural back drop and the liberal usage of the colorful language which seems so in tandem with the dialogue only accentuates the basic gentility of the characters. (My dear friend Priyam, of course. would strongly disagree with that). The inter play of the corrupt politician, the inept bureaucracy, the classic one liners of the villagers and the roles of the principal players keep the narrative from slipping into boredom. The movie however totally rests on Pankaj Kapur’s ageing shoulders and the man has borne the burden with chutzpah. He is every bit the consummate charmer that I found him to be twenty five years back. I wouldn’t rate the film as Vishal Bhardwaj’s best but it’s a terrific attempt and without Pankaj Kapoor’s powerhouse performance it would have fallen flat. However a great one time watch.