Direction: Ketna Mehta
Actors: Nawazuddin Siddique, Radhika Apte, Gaurav Dwivedi
Run time: 2hours
The legend of Dashrath Manjhi, a determined common man from Gehlaur village in Bihar’s Gaya district could not possibly have been told in a better way. Manjhi- The Mountain Man not only tells the tale of this indomitable man but also speaks of the innumerable deaths and suppressed stories of Bihar in the 1950s-60s. Manjhi had spent 22 precious years of his life to take revenge of his wife’s untimely death by carving a way through a mountain that separated the village from the nearest town and medical help.
The biography shows how a man, only out of love for his wife could carve out a way through the mountain that caused his wife’s death, with nothing but a hammer and a chisel. The film has an effect of an adventure yet it is not merely an adventure but portrayal of life itself in the silver screen. Ketan Mehta’s direction is so appropriate that one would feel that he is present in the 1960s’ corrupt Bihar where greedy zamindars kill and torture every person to fulfill their desires. Mehta has powerfully brought out the emotions of common men in a deprived village, along with this strong love story and sheer realism.
If compared to similar genres of films in Bollywood that were concerned about suppression, rebellious groups, and a strong will or biopics like Paan Singh Tomaar and Bandit Queen, Manjhi is wrapped in hard facts of sheer realism and carries off the blend of emotion, love, exploitation, and determination perfectly well. It bombards the audience with several known and unknown information of that critical era in Bihar. The photogenic scenery of Bihar and particularly the mountain though is not as beautiful as the Himalayas, but is somewhat alright to serve the visual appeal. The cinematography is not very appealing or attractive. Neither is the acting or dialect of the side characters.
Some of the scenes which show the couple romancing seems very fantasy oriented and hence do not quite fit into the realistic storyline. Even though all the actors could not keep up with the Bhojpuri accent, other than the lead characters, some of the dialogues in the film are really awe-inspiring and grand, like the one that Manjhi says towards the end of the film “Bhagwan k bharose mat bathiye, kya pata bhagwan humre bharose baitha ho…” followed by a heartwarming laughter.
Nawazuddin Siddique’s performance as Manjhi is overwhelming as Nawazuddin and Dashrath cannot be separately identified in any part of the film. While Radhika Apte kept a strong hold throughout the film with her sweet charming presence, Gaurav Dwivedi did a great job playing a journalist who narrates the story. The persuasive acting and set-up in the film may also get you teary eyed at times. The theme music and the songs were quite appropriate to fit in the situation of the film. A good incorporation of humour, realism, love, lust and determination, Manjhi- The Mountain Man is an essential watch for all movie lovers.