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Mandi (1983)

| Comedy, Drama
This classic film is based on a classic Urdu short story 'Aanandi' by Pakistani writer Ghulam Abbas. It deals with a brothel at the heart of a city, in an area that some politicians want ... See full summary »

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(screenplay), (screenplay) (as Pt. Satyadev Dubey) | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Rukmini Bai
...
Zeenat
...
Tungrus
...
Darvish
...
Mr. Gupta
...
Mr. Agarwal
...
Ram Gopal
Sreela Majumdar ...
Phoolmani
Neena Gupta ...
Vasanti
Gita Siddharth ...
Shantidevi
Sunila Pradhan ...
Mrs. Gupta
Soni Razdan ...
Bordello girl
Anita Kanwar ...
Parveena
...
Malti
Pankaj Kapur ...
Shantidevi's assistant
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Storyline

This classic film is based on a classic Urdu short story 'Aanandi' by Pakistani writer Ghulam Abbas. It deals with a brothel at the heart of a city, in an area that some politicians want for its prime locality. They rally up against the brothel and its inhabitants in the name of morality, and soon everyone in the area jumps on the bandwagon. The politicians offer to put up an alternative residence for the prostitutes, only this place is miles away, isolated from the city. The madam of the house has no choice but to comply, but by the end things take a (logical) turn for the better. After all, men will be men. Written by ajmal hussain <ajmalsaab@hotmail.com>

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Comedy | Drama

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Shamsheer bhari na maang gazab
Sung by Preeti Sagar
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User Reviews

 
A superb dark comedy from Benegal
4 January 2011 | by (Earth) – See all my reviews

Mandi is without a doubt one of the most entertaining movies of the great Shyam Benegal. Through this film, Benegal presents the world of young prostitutes and their madame, all of whom reside in an old brothel in Hyderabad. But unlike the glamorous portrayal of courtesans which are so common in Hindi movies, here we see an authentic and realistic depiction of the routine and effervescent neighbourhood and the brothel in particular. Benegal perfectly captures the atmosphere of the people residing in the village and his portrayal of their lifestyle is very impressive.

Mandi explores the hypocrisy of the society, but it's not as much a social movie as it is a satirical comedy. This is one of Benegal's most enjoyable movies in this regard. The film includes so many hilarious moments, keeping the audience entertained and yet never losing its seriousness. The humour comes in equal parts from the superb witty dialogues, the lifelike situations, the colourful characters, and the dark, ironic mood of the film, in which a serene but humorous narrative presents serious issues and flavours them with great sarcasm. That's what makes the film the more so amusing and funny.

One of the reasons Mandi works is the collaborative work of the ensemble cast, which includes some of the most talented actors in India, all of whom understand the film's darkly comic tone and act accordingly. Unquestionably, it is Shabana Azmi who leads the film as Rukmini, the domineering but caring madame of the house. At 33, Azmi plays a woman much ahead of her years, and she delivers an incredibly convincing and colourful portrayal, which is unrestrained and subtle at the same time. In preparation for the role, Azmi put on weight, and despite looking young, she definitely looks the part. Her unusually loud tone and crudely unrefined mannerisms are masterfully done, and it's both amazing and amusing to see her switching moods from angry to happy to suffering to motherly and loving. This is one of her most entertaining performances.

The rest of the cast is there to support Azmi, with Smita Patil and Naseeruddin Shah acquiring top honours. Patil is wonderful as the young and gentle Zeenat, who is also Rukmini's most beloved girl in the brothel, whom she has treated like her own daughter and for whom she cares the most. Shah delivers a greatly ambiguous performance as Rukmini's loyal employee, who indulges in funny and diverting emotional outbursts when she is not nearby. Kulbhushan Kharbanda is very good as the sophisticated businessman. Saeed Jaffrey is hilarious as Agarwal, who shares a common secret with Rukmini. Om Puri, Amrish Puri, and Pankaj Kapur lend adequate support in smaller parts, and so does the entire group of the brothel's girls, which includes such famous names as Ila Arun, Anita Kanwar, Ratna Pathak, Neena Gupta and Soni Razdan.

Mandi has music composed by Vanraj Bhatia, a regular in Benegal films. There are very few songs, but they are all nice. Mandi is a highly watchable movie. My favourite scenes are those taking place in Zeenat's room when several men come to visit her, much to Rukmini's displeasure. I loved the film's ending. Despite leaving several questions unanswered, it shows that there always is a ray of hope in everything. One of Shyam Benegal's most unusually crafted works, a great film with dark humour (which is so missing in Indian movies) and fantastic performances, which deserves many repeat viewings.


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