Continuing with the trend of making bio-pics, Hindi cinema is here with another untold real life story from the rural India that even surpasses the yardstick of being extra-ordinary in an astonishing manner. It’s about an unbelievable victory of the human spirit achieved by a simple but extremely courageous, focused and adamant villager Dashrath Manjhi, taking him into the history books, probably with no other parallel as such credited to an individual.
But here frankly the unsatisfactory cinematic representation of the amazing triumph doesn’t allow me to write about it as a routine review. So would like to go ahead with the write-up dividing it into three broader sections as below.
1. About the Unofficial/Mischievous Pre-release leak on the internet.
Unfortunately, a complete file of the movie somehow got leaked on the internet about two weeks before the official release, shocking both the makers and the viewers together as a disastrous unexpected development close to the D-day.
The news was truly scary but looking at it from the other angle, it’s such sudden and tempting events only that actually reveal the real person hiding in every individual, willing to take the undue advantage whenever easily available saving his few bucks.
So at this crucial moment, where few educated friends quickly got exposed through their immediate posts/tweets discussing the movie in details before the official release, most of our BTC friends didn’t download it despite being available through a single click on their high end phones or computer systems.
And for this thoughtful gesture, I would personally like to congratulate all who could resist the inviting temptation, proving themselves as true lovers of cinema when it actually counted the most. My hats off to you all and do continue supporting the makers with the same spirit always (educating your close friends too).
2. A humble and emotional salute to Dashrath Manjhi – Our new age FARHAD divinely loving his adorable SHIRIN.
Thinking about the subject or basic theme of the film introducing us to a loving and inspiring personality like Dashrath Manjhi, I honestly feel that we as simple writers/reviewers/bloggers are too small to write anything about the amazing unbelievable achievement made by the man single handedly, teaching us new enlightening lessons on true love, courage, dedication and vision of converting the unimaginable into a reality.
Remembering the traditional love-saga of Shirin-Farhaad, that had Farhaad cutting a canal through the mountains, fulfilling the condition kept by the King to get his beloved Shirin, I could see ‘a new age Farhad’ in Dashrath Manjhi performing a similar herculean task for his beloved Phaguniya. In fact, Dashrath even rises much above the status of the traditional Farhad since he was not doing it all for his dead wife, but for the still living people of his village and surroundings, seeing a young Phaguniya living in each and every home risking her life on daily basis walking through the cruel mountains.
The man spent more than 40 years of his life (22 spent in the mountains alone) for a single cause and never looked back even when his own family and friends started calling him a ‘mad person’. He proved them all wrong in the subsequent years with his continuous efforts and turned out to be a visionary who could easily see the ‘I-m-possible’ in the so called ‘Impossible’ much before we all realized it through the shared quotations in books and social networks a few decades later.
So taking the much valuable inspiration from the life of this blessed soul, I find myself capable of only paying a heartfelt tribute and a humble, emotional salute to Sh. Dashrath Manjhi, who possibly remains the only person in the world-history completing such phenomenal task without any external help of either man-power or some advanced tools.
3. The review as a film presenting MANJHI on screen.
Coming to the cinematic representation of MANJHI, here are my honest views keeping the real personality of the icon apart, paying my utmost respect and love as mentioned above.
To begin with, a bio-pic of an achiever like Dashrath Manjhi essentially needs to shake down the viewer strongly along with inspiring him about the ‘unachievable achieved’ despite many conflicting circumstances of poverty and lack of resources. Yes, the film manages to deliver the same to a large extent post intermission, but it’s the several deliberate (commercial) insertions made in its first half that actually dilute its overall impact a lot, resulting in a film that was least expected from a thinking director like Ketan Mehta.
If truth be told, we have a different Mehta here as the captain of the ship, surprisingly bowing down to the commercial needs of a project like never before, far away from the director of films like Bhavani Bavai, Holi, Mirch Masala, Maya Memsaab and Sardar. May be it was due to the failure of his much bigger projects in the last two decades that forced him to do so. But adding ‘Comedy’ into such a film revolving around an extremely serious theme was too desperate and unnecessary as per my personal opinion.
In other words, MANJHI successfully manages to become a decent watch basically due to its astonishing real life story, immensely enjoyable Nawazuddin and the well written impressive dialogues that stay in your mind for long as its major highlight. But at the same time, the film doesn’t force you to stop for a while and think about the unusual life lived by the incredible man due to its less convincing first half that questionably keeps focusing on comedy and entertainment, instead of seriousness of the issue, enlightening the audience like a good old Ketan Mehta film.
To name a few, we have a number of comic sequences in its initial hour, portraying Nawazuddin as a funny man speaking broken English and wearing a striking yellow shirt (reminding you of Aamir Khan in RANGEELA). The laughs keep coming in through the repeated flashbacks at regular intervals moving away from its basic theme. And till we reach the turning point of the major accident, all we have is a well enacted commercially viable entertaining project presenting a pure filmy take of the sad realistic story, with many deliberate comic and romantic insertions just to woo the audience.
Thankfully the director somehow finds his forgotten form in the second hour focusing on the core subject. But then has to present it all very quickly dealing in too many things together ranging from the conquest over the mountain, his two kids, the old father, naxalite movement, a drought, government allotment of funds, cunning zamindars, corrupt politicians, interfering officials, Manjhi’s journey to Delhi on foot and then the final years displayed through written text on screen conveying a lot of important things that many might miss reading. Incidentally the onscreen execution also reminds you of few foreign movies at times such as CAST AWAY, FORREST GUMP and even 127 HOURS. But most importantly it’s the second half and the cast that actually saves the film from becoming a complete misfire.
Solely depending upon its lead performer alone, we once again have Nawazuddin Siddiqui delivering a visibly hard worked, flawless performance as Dashrath Manjhi coming up as a clear winner. And the audiences are bound to enjoy him a lot mainly due to the comic touches given to his character by the ‘insightful’ director. However, the truth remains that had they treated the film’s first half with a different approach, Siddiqui could have portrayed the message even more intensely, making you feel the pain instead of some silly laughs.
Radhika Apte does well trying hard to look like a village girl. But her uneven costumes and un-required skin show (just for the sake of it) don’t let her shine as brightly as she easily could. In the supporting cast, the routine ‘seen before’ acts come from the talented Tigmanshu Dhulia, Pankaj Tripathi and Prashant Narayanan, whereas Gaurav Dwiwedi (as journalist), Late Ashraful Haq (as Manjhi’s father) and Deepa Sahi (in a cameo as Indira Gandhi) are able to make a much better impact in their short roles. The film has an average musical score, decent background music and a fine art direction portraying the rural life. Plus Cinematography simply excels capturing the actual locations of Bihar and its scenic beauty.
But despite these visible merits, it’s the director’s unclear vision that brings down the film severely, missing many important features of Dashrath Manjhi’s life that deserved to be included in the film made by the bio-pic specialist Ketan Mehta.
And reading the following points derived from a short research, I am sure you would readily agree to the statement made above along with a bit of surprise. (Note: Please do let me know if you find something misquoted or missing in these points in your valuable comments)
What MANJHI questionably missed out as an important biographical film!
1. First of all, the film doesn’t give you the exact explanation of the problem created by that big mountain for the villagers in either technical or visual terms, that why an ‘inconceivable’ path was so important for them, capable of bringing a big change in their daily lives and earnings too.
(Like, how they were finding difficulties in reaching the local town, the market, the big hospital, the major school and more.)
2. It was not stressed upon how Dashrath managed to live in those tough decades without having a regular income source for upbringing his two kids providing them the minimum education and basic needs. Moreover where in one scene his father strongly gives up on the two kids walking out annoyingly, in another he readily takes up the responsibility again and that too in an old age capable of contributing a lot less.
(As per the actual reports, Manjhi sold the goats owned by his family to buy the first set of tools and used to visit the mountains with his hammer in the early hours of the day as a daily ritual. He managed to earn a small living by working in the few remaining hours joining the routine work. But later when the villagers stopped calling him a lunatic looking at his constant devotion, they themselves started providing him the food and tools regularly, which is not there in the film in the required details.)
3. The courageous man completed the task in 22 long years from 1960 to 1982 (Incidentally Ketan Mehta released his first much appreciated film in 1980 when ‘the mountain man’ was already done with his unbelievable task in Bihar). But even after carving the path within the huge mountain in 1982, ‘a pucca road’ was shockingly not built on the same for the next two decades till Dashrath’s death in 2007.
Why?..... The film neither raises any questions nor gives any answers for this long gap.
4. Politicians kept meeting Dashrath in all these years since 1982 and he was also featured on Patna Doordarshan (probably) in the 90s. A film was made on him by a director offering some fixed amount of money which Manjhi never received. But then Bihar government recognized his works in 2006 (strangely post 24 years of the task completed) and nominated him for ‘Padma Shri’ too along with a plot of land rewarded for his huge effort made.
Also as widely reported in those years, even the Chief Minister stood up from his seat offering the chair, the moment he saw ‘Baba’ (as he was fondly called) visiting him in the officially held ‘Junta Darbar’.
However, post accepting the gifted land, Manjhi at once donated it to a hospital right away and his nomination for ‘Padma Shri’ was withdrawn since the forest ministry called his ‘breaking the mountain’ illegal as per the government norms.
The film has no visual depiction of this in its presentation.
5. In August 2007, Manjhi died losing his battle with cancer in Delhi’s AIIMS (the medical treatment was duly arranged by the state only). The Chief Minister gave him a State Funeral and then Films Division made a documentary on him too in 2012 titled “The man who moved the mountain’.
Before that a few thoughtful directors/reporters also shot the actual footage of Dashrath Manjhi sharing his views at the carved path only that can easily be seen on Youtube.
But the film doesn’t make any great use of this real life footage of the man very strangely.
6. At present, the specific region, the village and the people are still living in the same poverty as always without any regular basic facilities of electricity, drinking water, higher education and medical attention. Plus as reported in a news article, Manjhi’s son recently lost his wife too due to lack of proper medical treatment given well in time, exactly like her mother in 1960.
So shouldn’t a bio-pic made in 2015 about the same poor region and its people, enlighten the viewers and the government together on their continuously ignored pathetic conditions despite being in news since the death of ‘The Mountan Man’?
Yes it surely should…….but Ketan Mehta’s MANJHI doesn’t, proving as yet another film made to encash an unbelievable, moving real life story of the rural India ……..and nothing more than that!
7. Now coming to the most exciting point for which I was dying to watch MANJHI from several months. The moment I came to know about Dashrath Manjhi a few years back, I was awestruck by his unimaginable achievement made (of carving a 360 feet long and 30 feet wide path from within a huge mountain) and was too eager to know that,
How he actually did the task and with what technique?
How did he calculate the key spot to begin from?
What were his calculations made that this will be the best point to carve a path reaching the other side of the mountain at the earliest?
and most importantly,
Did he begin from the top or from the bottom?
(The top seemed to be a more logical deduction to me as a layman)
In short, I was very much interested to know more about ‘THE HOW’ from Ketan Mehta’s MANJHI as a supposedly well researched film directed by a reputed name. But the director simply remains ignorant to this major fact and just conveys ‘He did it!’ instead of any sort of ‘How he did it?” coming as a big disappointment for me personally.
Further watching the scenes wherein Nawazuddin always keeps hammering the big stones lying flat on the ground and is never shown breaking them standing at the top, really made me wonder upon the faulty vision displayed quite seriously.
Still, I did manage to find a brief information about one of his many unknown techniques, wherein Dashrath Manjhi innovatively used to burn some firewood on the rocks first and then sprinkled water on the heated surface causing some possible softening that could be easily broken with his heavy hammer. The man must have applied many more similar techniques in those 22 years finding no specific mention in the key articles or documentaries made on his amazing life. But now as he is gone, we can only make some assumptions and nothing else.
Sadly the film is not even interested in talking about this specific point or any technique, indicating towards the half-baked research made by its writing team.
Summing up the long write-up, its not that MANJHI can be skipped as an average movie to be watched later. No, the film deserves to be seen as a must despite its visible shortcomings, paying your personal respect towards the spirited man, his true love and the unbelievable task completed just single handedly.
But having said that the film also cannot be rated as an exceptionally outstanding bio-pic by any means, since it majorly focuses on an ACTOR, who unintentionally HIJACKS the entire film turning it into a light hearted entertainer (through his witty one liners and enjoyable renditions) making you actually forget the real man it was all about.
In clear words, while walking out of the theatre its simply Nawazuddin you have in mind and his enjoyable dialogues spoken amusingly as ‘‘Shandaar, Zabardast, Zindabad”, but not Dashrath Manjhi who sacrificed his whole life for a cause without asking for much. And that in my opinion is a big failure both for the actor and his director making an important bio-pic on the life of a lesser known legendary man.
Giving two recent examples (of 2015) in support of my above statement,
watch EH JANAM TUMHARE LEKHE (Punjabi) based on the life history of Bhagat Puran Singh, the Mother Teresa of Punjab and GOUR HARI DASTAAN (Hindi) based on the last three decades experiences of Gour Hari Das, a respected freedom fighter living in the present times.
In the Punjabi film, Pawan Malhotra plays the role of Bhagat Puran Singh and in the Hindi film Vinay Pathak plays Gour Hari Das, both enacting their given assignment to perfection.
But here, while moving out of the theater, you neither have Pawan Malhotra nor Vinay Pathak in mind even once, but only the characters they portray on screen with their utmost conviction and vision, which is nothing less than a lifetime achievement for an actor and his director together that’s simply missing in MANJHI.
Because Mehta's film eventually makes you remember Nawazuddin Siddiqui much more as an entertaining actor………………. than the real hero, Dashrath Manjhi !!!!!
Rating : 3 / 5