Friday, 21 August 2015

Manjhi The Mountain Man :: Movie Review

                                              Image result for 4 1/2 stars
Manjhi - The Mountain Man is a inspiring cult biopic that chronicles the life events of Dashrath Manjhi essayed by a plausible Nawazuddin Siddiqui and crafted eloquently by Ketan Mehta making it a compelling watch. It's quite sad & disheartening that most of our writers and filmmakers keep on weaving tales around fictional heroes and making films on them whilst ignoring the real life heroes of India like Dashrath Manjhi. So, to begin with Salutations to Ketan Mehta for his genuine intentions in giving silver screen shape to the heroic deeds of one of the many unsung heroes of India i.e. Dashrath Manjhi. Had Ketan Mehta not helmed this movie, many from the present generation would have been deprived of coming to know about the heroic feat of this ordinary man who cut a mountain single- handedly over a period of 22 years for the sake of his love. The beautiful irony of Dashrath Manji's life that this consummate biopic captures so ably, is that he really didn't aspire to anything, he did it simply because of the compelling circumstances and by the virtue of his personal traits. Coming to his traits, it will be gross injustice to his exemplary traits if I continue my review without giving you an insight on them. The movie ably showcases all of them during its run-time & I would elaborate on some of them :
Selfless Eternal Love : We have heard of several legendary love stories where the lover gets killed or kills himself/herself for the sake of love but here is a lover who died a thousand deaths during a span of 22 years while cutting down a mountain that was responsible for his wife's death. He did this to ensure that no one else in the village has to go through same hardship in future.
Will-power : No one imagined or dared to cut down a  treacherous mountain just by using a chisel and a hammer but Dashrath Manjhi with his will power made it possible.
Determination : Dashrath faced innumerable hardships while cutting down the mountain which have been depicted in the movie but with his strong determination, he managed to complete the task in 22 years.
Perseverance : He was frequently taunted by others who even called him mad. He was cheated by Government officials who siphoned off the grant allocated for cutting the mountain and even put him behind the bars but nothing could relent him from completing the task.      
In a nutshell, it's a solid biopic drama by Ketan Mehta , one that doesn't unnecessarily glorify it's subject. Yes, it shows Dashrath Manjhi's extraordinary achievement but it doesn't portray him like a cliched cinematic hero. But apart from Ketan we must not forget one name who has made this movie a not to be missed Biopic i.e. Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Nawazuddin doesn't 'play' Manjhi. The actor occupies Manjhi's mind body & soul and he has delivered a superlative outstanding performance for which he deserves an ovation. 

STORY & SCREENPLAY (SPOILERS AHEAD)           ::                The story as well as screenplay of the movie has been penned down by Ketan Mehta & Mahendra Jakhar  History is created in several ways and one of them is Cinema. And if Ketan Mehta's Manjhi-The Mountain Man seems like a near flawless homage to the relentless spirit of India's unsung Hero, it is partly because the story, so nimbly woven into a pastiche of drama, emotion, humor, pathos, inspiring love by Ketan & Mahendra, who show no hurry to keep pace with on-screen Manjhi's breathless spirit. The story about indomitable spirit of Manjhi unfolds in this exceptional biopic at its own volition. The synergy in telling the story seems subliminal. Still. we the audience, fed week after week on mediocrity masquerading as cinema, are riveted to the story of Dashrath Manjhi for over two hours of playing time. The writers have paid due attention to minute details of Manjhi's milieu, culture and the politics of class and caste-ism. To top it all, the movie has been peppered with some real hard hitting dialogues like " Bahgwan ke bharose mat baitho, ka pata wo humre bharose baitha ho". The film begins in Gehlaur (Bihar) with Dashrath Manjhi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) challenging a mountain to break it down. After that the film keeps on oscillating between past and present showcasing the life events of Dashrath Manjhi. While young Dashrath is married in childhood, his father (Ashraful Haq) decides to sell him off to village Mukhiya (Tigmanshu Dhulia) as bonded labor due to non payment of taxes. Young Dashrath runs away from home to Dhanbad where he works in Coal mines. He returns back to his native place after 7 years and on his way back meets Phaguniya (Radika Apte), falls in love with her and marries her. One fine day, Phaguniya falls from a mountain and dies on the way to hospital because a big mountain separates the village from the hospital. The death of his wife jolts Manjhi so much so that he decides to break down the mountain on his own with a help of a chisel and hammer. Hereafter, the movie depicts the hardships faced by Manjhi in order to break down the mountain.

STARCAST                                                                                  ::                  Kudos to Vijai Singh (Casting Director) of the movie for choosing the effective actors who have further portrayed their respective characters with utmost conviction. Each n every actor chosen by Vijai Singh has contributed to the movie by giving earnest and realistic performance. Needless to say, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the soul of this movie. To his credit, we are not able to locate Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the movie but only Dashrath Manjhi. He truly lives through his role and portrays a myriad number of expressions in the movie. Right from the carefree Dashrath who falls in love with Phaguniya to the determined Manjhi who takes up the challenge to break up the mountain, Nawazuddin hits the right notes every single time. It's not a mean task to depict a lifespan of a character without going overboard but with his immense talent, Nawazuddin makes it looks effortless. It's definitely award(s) winning performance by him. Radhika Apte once again proves her acting prowess by portraying the character of Phaguniya to hilt. Radhika Apte, who although has a short but powerful role has once again managed to impress and that too as a village belle. She looks every inch the feisty, charming young woman that she is supposed to portray on-screen. Radhika is on an up-spree and is proving her versatility as an actress as her character in this movie is in stark contrast to the characters she played in her last 2 flicks i.e. Badlapur & Hunterrr. Tigmanshu Dhulia makes his presence felt as Mukhiya of the village. His firm body language, dialect and facial expressions make him pitch perfect for the character he has essayed in the movie. Pankaj Tripathi is another fine actor who manages to leave a impression as Mukhiya's son. He is assiduously convincing as lecherous, sordid upper caste antagonist with a glutinous smile embedded over his face. Late Ashraful Haq who died recently has done a commendable job while portraying the character of Dashrath's father. He has ably emoted the worries and concerns of a father regarding stability of his son. Prashant Narayannan proves his acting caliber by playing an effective cameo in the movie. He is one actor who needs to be seen more frequently on big screen. Gaurav Dwivedi has given an earnest & praiseworthy performance as the upright journalist. Gaurav not only convincingly looks every inch the character that he is supposed to portray on-screen but his interactions with Nawazuddin are a treat to watch. Gaurav  perfectly imbibes the features of a typical semi-urban journo and is a talent to watch out for. Not to forget, Deepa Sahi Mehta who in her effective cameo plays the role of Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the most graceful manner.

TECHNICAL FINESSE                                                               ::           The musical soundtrack as well as background music of the movie that has been composed by Sandesh Sandaliya is excellent and absolutely in tandem with the inspiring theme of the movie. The cinematography by Rajiv Jain is immensely gratifying as his camera glides across Manjhi's inner and outer world searching for a meeting point between the two worlds through visuals that suggest a comfortable kinship between feelings and their geopolitical counter-point. We often see Manjhi on-screen in situations where his emotional world is manifested in interaction with mountain around him. Rajiv has done a swell job of capturing visuals. A special mention of Nitin Chandrakant Desai (Production Designer) & Wafisha Rahman (Costume Designer) for their effective contribution in their respective fields. The movie has been edited by Pratik Chitalia who has kept the run-time of the movie to 120 minutes. The brilliant unsparing editor Pratik follows no predictable pattern which is something daring but has worked well and paid off. The film has been very stylishly cut by Pratik but not at the cost of loosing that simplicity, the innate asceticism of the unsung hero. Director Ketan Mehta has undoubtedly given a befitting tribute to India's unsung hero Dashrath Manjhi by making a cult biopic with a mix of myriad emotions that will evoke a range of sentiments in your heart while watching this movie. An average director with cinematic palate and sensibilities could have easily fallen into the trap of glorifying Manjhi's achievement. But Ketan has chosen to portray emotions over victory and hardships over glory of his protagonist to narrate an absorbing tale. There are no exaggerated dramatic flourishes here, no playing to the galleries.    

CONCLUSION                                                                             ::          All in all, Ketan Mehta's Manjhi - The Mountain Man is certainly a movie worth watching for many reasons. The movie makes an earnest attempt to tell a biopic in an engaging and the most sincere way it could have been told.  One of the most touching & inspiring love stories backed up by bravura performances and eloquent direction needs to be seen on Big Screen.  I am giving it 4 1/2 stars out of 5. 

ROHIT SHARMA. 
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