Manjhi The Mountain Man Review
For most part of Manjhi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, usually a good actor, seems to be reliving some other roles that he has already wowed us with. Little does one see any transformation in the actor as Dashrath Manjhi. That is one of the biggest problems with Ketan Mehta's latest biopic.
Manjhi tells the story of a man and his mad love for his wife. A man who takes on the might of a hill and paves a way through it after his wife died because he could not get her to the hospital in time. The pregnant wife had slipped and fell off the hill resulting in her death and Manjhi exacts revenge by carving a road so that no one ever needs to climb the hill again to reach the nearest town.
For 22 years Manjhi laboured undeterred with a hammer and chisel. He was called names by people but that wouldn't effect. Money sanctioned by government for his cause never reached him but he did not lose spirit. He was even arrested and beaten up.
At its heart Manjhi is as much a heart breaking story as it is awe-inspiring. In one of the scenes of the film Dashrath manages to meet Indira Gandhi who had come to the area to campaign for elections. She had called for action against poverty - "gareebi hataao". She clicked a photo with Dashrath and that is published in some papers. Nothing much has changed since. The powers-that-be still call out the same slogan, accuse the other party. It took the government 30 years after Dashrath paved the way to finally construct the concrete road that the man envisioned. By then Manjhi had passed away.
As a film this biopic is marred with few issues. As long he is shooting in a village Ketan Mehta does not falter on settings. His lack of effort to ensure authenticity of the period setting comes to fore when his hero travels from the village to Delhi. You see everything that is today's and not from the '70s. Lazy work or lack of funds... Take your guess! While such blemishes do not affect the story, you expect better out of Mehta. Also his usage of music does not quite sync with his storytelling.
He of course gets it bang on with his screenplay. The director and his team of writers probably understood that going linear would not be the best thing to do for a story already known and shown (There was a documentary made earlier on the same subject) Hence the choose to go back and forth amplifying the drama. They manage to showcase Dashrath's life right from his childhood albeit in an episodic manner. His character is built well and that helps ride the rest of the film.
Manjhi must have been a difficult film to shoot. And cinematographer Rajiv Jain puts his best foot forward. Also putting her best foot forward is Radhika Apte as Phagunia - the wife of Dashrath.
Tigmanshu Dhulia, playing the village zamindaar, seems to have walked right out of Gangs of Wasseypur while Prashant Narayanan reprises his role of a Naxalite from Issaq.
Manjhi might not be a great film, but it is a great story. It is a story that deserves to be seen; to be known by people all across. That is enough reason for one to watch the film. And that it manages to entertain off and on is an added benefit.
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