Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho! is one of the best satires ever made on the Indian screen and one of Saeed Akhtar Mirza's best though unfairly underrated films always spoken about after Salim Langde pe Mat Ro (1989) or Albert Pinto ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai (1980). The film is a brilliant take off on the housing problems faced by middle-class tenants in Bombay while at the same time making a dig at the archaic Indian judicial system where cases drag on and on and on and on...
The film is everything a great satire should be. It is perceptive, witty, heart-warming, eye-opening, thought-provoking, ironic (the song in praise of Bombay but actually showing its underbelly works wonderfully, wonderfully well!) and finally yes, poignant as well. The film creates flesh and blood characters whose lives we follow and deeply care about and thus Mohan Joshi's death at the end of the film comes as a rude jolt and packs a solid emotional wallop. In fact, the film beautifully highlights the ineffectuality of the ordinary man faced with an abuse of his very basic rights.
The ensemble cast, all of whom are outsnding actors are absolutely spot on. There is not one false note in any of the performances. But special mention still has to made of Bhisham Sahni and Dina Pathak playing the harried elderly couple to perfection . And to think that this was Sahni's screen debut at 69! Naseeruddin Shah of course is as brilliant as ever as the slimy lawyer. His wig is an absolute scream! Amjad Khan as the landlord makes you realize there is a totally different side to him from Gabbar Singh. How you wish he had done more such roles as this and Shatranj ke Khiladi (1977) with sensible filmmakers. Perfect support comes from Deepti Naval, Mohan Gokhle, Arvind Deshpande, Pankaj Kapur and Satish Shah.
On the techncial side, special mention must be made of Virendra Saini's fine on-location photography and Renu Saluja's deft editing. The use of actual locations is most effective and consequently Bombay is as much a character in the story as are the artists. But then Saeed, who has been born and brought up in Bombay, has always set all his films in the city he understands best, in particular the day-to-day problems of its citizens. This is what gives his films that extra edge as well.
All in all, Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho! is a gem of a little film made by one of our most committed filmmakers.