In an effort to start reviewing more movies, we begin with the latest movie on our list: Manjhi – The Mountain Man. Like almost everyone else, I already knew that Manjhi is based on the story of Dashrath Manjhi who broke a mountain with nothing but a hammer and chisel. And the subtitle makes it pretty obvious as well. And I think that sums up the gist of the movie: it’s all pretty damn obvious.
But in an effort to write a review with some substance, I’m going to look at some of the finer nuances of the film.
Manjhi – The Story of Nawazuddin Siddiqui
If a man can make a movie, it is Nawazuddin. Imagine any other actor (especially our bulkier Bollywood heroes) in the role and the film would come crashing down to earth (much faster than the twenty-nine years it took the real Mr Manjhi to break the mountain). Nawaz keeps the movie standing and even gives it a fighting chance.
He is effortless in the role of a poor outcaste fighting for survival in a world that is simply unfair. Fighting for himself, fighting for his love, fighting for hope, fighting for chance, fighting for madness, fighting and surviving through it all.
What I wasn’t expecting was him to be so funny — hip-thrusting street-style dance, Govinda style ‘phoren’ clothes, a laugh-out-loud comic character. He was outstanding in the comical aspects of the movie. Loved him.
Similarly, Radhika Apte as his wife, Phagunia, was pretty good. Strong, believable, submissive and belligerent. Interesting characterisations.
The Comic Aspect of Manjhi
Like mentioned above, I wasn’t expecting Manjhi to be funny. Aside from the Nawaz, the script also had some brilliant comic moments which satirise the world we live in. For instance, Manjhi is walking to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister during emergency. On his journey, he feels cold. So he picks up a random banner lying near a railway track and wraps it around his body. Unknown to him, the words ‘Dilli Chalo’ and other protest slogans are written on the back — and other protesters suddenly start following him. He becomes the unwitting Pied Piper Leader against the dictatorial reign of Indira Gandhi.
However, where the film fails is that it doesn’t take you anywhere from there. Those brilliant moments are just lost and you are back to staring at Manjhi’s wishful apparitions of his dead wife.
Manjhi: Falling for Stereotypes
Where the film fails is being brutally obvious in depicting stereotypes. A feudal landlord beats, rapes, murders, plunders. After the abolishment of untouchability and feudalism, the same landlords become MLAs and in cahoots with corrupt government officials, plunder the land further. Bonded labourers turn into Naxalites. Everything is just too black and white.
However, the film is interesting as it is one of the few films in recent times that touches upon some of the harsh realities of India in the 60’s and 70’s. It really was a different India. I’d be interested in seeing more stories of this time period.
Terrible Visual Effects
Yeah, Manjhi had the worst visual effects of seen of any film of late. It felt like we were back in the 80’s.
Manjhi Movie Trailer
Overall Review of Manjhi
Overall, the film had some good elements and some not so good elements. I’m not dying to see it again and there were some moments where I fell asleep (it was a late night show). Like most Bollywood movies, you could cut an hour off of it and it would be a pretty decent movie.
Manjhi is playing in local movie theatres. You can book your ticket on sites like www.bookmyshow.com.