Director: Ketan Mehta
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Pankaj Tripathi, Gaurav Dwivedi
Most extraordinary people lead the most ordinary life till a life changing event pushes them to tread down an extraordinary adventure. For Dasrath Manjhi, it was the tragic death of his wife, an incident that changed his life forever. Bioipics always are a risky business and it is indeed a great challenge that Ketan Mehta has taken up with this movie.
Dasrath Manjhi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) lives in a small village in Gehlaur (Bihar) where caste systems and wealthy landlords rule the day. The village is bounded by a rocky mountain which has to be crossed on foot to reach the hospital, often losing out on precious time. He is happily married and clearly madly in love with his wife, Phalguni. Unfortunately, one day while crossing the mountain, she falls down and injures herself. Due to the delay in reaching the hospital, she dies from her injuries. Distraught and heartbroken, Manjhi decides to do the impossible, to tear open the mountain that tore down his life.
Manjhi main cast is its saviour. Nawazuddin is one of the finest actors, Indian film industry has ever seen. His sound theatre training is explicitly visible in every role he essays and Manjhi is by far one of his best roles. I happened to read his interview in the newspaper, recently. He decided to use a hammer of the same weight that Dasrath Manjhi himself had employed to cut through the mountain. The reason Nawazzudin gave was that it helped him step into the shoes of Dasrath Manjhi. His co-star, Radhika Apte, who plays the role of Phalguni Manjhi, also needs a special mention. She has a raw sensual quality about her that is rare to come by. She fits with ease into the role of Phalguni Manjhi and her chemistry with Nawazuddin has an odd charm about it. Unfortunately, the complexity of the plot does not leave any space for the supporting cast to plant their feet in the movie. Hence, they either have obscure or utterly meaningless roles.
Manjhi has a very authentic rustic appeal. I commend Ketan Mehta’s effort to bring to light the story of our mountain man. However, the attempt to bring out the story without losing out on its essence pushes the entertainment factor out of the movie. Like Dasrath Manjhi’s 22 year old back breaking effort to cut through the mountain, Manjhi will leave you tired and mentally exhausted. The screenplay by Ketan Mehta, Anjum Rajabali and Mahendra Jhakar struggles to squeeze in several little plots into one big story. In the end, it does justice to none of the storylines lines. The fact that Manjhi undertook this mountainous task for his wife is repeated innumerous times unnecessarily, as if to make up for the gaps in the script. Not that it helps! And none of the additional plotlines have a clean beginning or end. Overall, the screenplay ends up being very messy.
Manjhi fails to deliver on its expectations. Despite Nawazuddin’s outstanding performance, the movie fails to take off. Not more than a one-time watch for me, thank you very much. And if you are not going as well, then lets wait for the next week with our fingers crossed!
My verdict: **