Manjhi- The Mountain Man is the story of an ordinary village man and his extraordinary love. Ketan Mehta's Manjhi takes you to the rural realities of India in the 1960s. The many issues of rural life- the predominance of the caste system, the babu-culture reeking of corruption, the tyranny of the Mukhiya and his goons, the villagers' miserable plight, and the administration turning a blind eye to them except in the election season- have been highlighted well.
The movie opens with Manjhi in blood-soaked white clothes hurling stones at the mountain. As the plot progresses, we are introduced to his world and through short flashbacks we see the tragedy that he holds the mountain responsible for. The first half of the movie has been able to rhythmically engage the most organic of human emotions. Right from the scene where Manjhi first sees his wife in Wazirganj to the heart-wrenching scenes of survival in an arid, drought-stricken mountain region, the film makes you empathize with Manjhi's joys and his heartbreaks.
Needless to say, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the star of the film. The actor's genuine and brilliant portrayal of the Gehlaur hero is to be applauded. Radhika Apte's earthiness and her beauty will enchant you as much as her acting. The rawness of her character will make you instantly see what Manjhi saw in his Phaguniya. The idealistic nature of their love becomes clear when she equates his carving the mountain with the building of the ultimate monument of adoration, the Taj Mahal.
The honest journalist, Alok Jha, played by Gaurav Dwivedi and the despotic Mukhiya, played by Tigmanshu Dhulia, will subtly make their mark. Indira Gandhi, played by Deepa Sahi, makes a brief appearance.
The second half of the movie is a little disappointing. There are bits about the stinking social stratosphere that Emergency-ridden India had gone through. The intention, of course, was correct, but you end up feeling like a lot has been crammed into the screenplay. Some parts of the film feel like an exaggerated version of the events that actually occurred. But you need to keep in mind that had we not known Dashrath Manjhi's story, breaking a mountain with a hammer and a chisel would have itself sounded like a far-fetched tale.
The film has been aesthetically shot and you get to see the rural region in all its rustic charm. The love-making scene in the film has been artfully portrayed and you have to credit the director for having envisioned it so tastefully. The biopic leaves you with a sense of empathy and respect for a man who stood against the world in his resolve, and never lost his will to do what he thought would avenge his wife's sad demise.
In the end, you'll be left with just three words: "Sandaar.. jabardast.. jindabaad!"
Why you should watch this film:
Watch Manjhi- The Mountain Man to see the resolve of a man, and more importantly to enjoy the cinematic representation of Dashrath Manjhi, the man who had the willpower and the guts to carry out his promise, despite ridicule from society.