August 21: Manjhi- the mountain man is a recreation of the stranger than fiction tale of Dashrath Manjhi of Gehlaur village of Bihar, who single handedly brought down a mountain to carve a path out of it. Born in a low caste family, Dashrath Manjhi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) flees home at a young age, when his father tries to sell him off to the villainous village head (Tigmanshu Dhulia). He returns to his village at a time when the government has abolished untouchability, but Manjhi soon finds out that it’s just a sham. He soon elopes with and marries Pahgunia (Radhika Apte).

Life comes full circle for Manjhi when his son is born.  Everything turns around when Pahgunia slips from the mountain while carrying lunch for Manjhi and dies. Driven mad by her death, Manjhi picks up his tools and begins his mission to decimate his adversary- the mountain- one chip at a time. More than two decades and loads and loads of uphill battles with local goons and corrupt officials later, Manjhi is able to manage the herculean feat of carving a path out of the mountain. Also Read: Manjhi – The Mountain Man: Nawazuddin Siddiqui & Radhika Apte at the screening (In pics)

First things first, Nawazuddin Siddiqui has established himself firmly in Bollywood with this film. What he had dubbed as the most difficult role of his life, was performed by him with amazing finesse and gravitas. He very convincingly portrays the trials and tribulations of the life that Manjhi chooses for himself. His enactment of a man driven insane by loss of his love and his desire for revenge against an unlikely adversary, is extremely moving.

Radhika Apte has also proved her mettle in acting with the role of Pahgunia. Pahgunia would have been reduced to a secondary character who is only present to show skin and giggle to Manjhi’s words, had not Apte rescued Pahgunia with her feisty ways and refreshing chemistry with Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Also Read: Manjhi – The Mountain Man Quick Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer is a wholesome entertainer

The challenge with converting this story into a film was to make it seem believable to the audience, at which Ketan Mehta’s Manjhi leaves much to be desired, thanks to a script which sort of pushes the mountain man’s story in the background by adding too much dramatics. While one can understand that the drama makes the film accessible to a wider audience, the disadvantage is that the subtleties and the nuances of the characters are overshadowed by that.

Also, most of the characters in the film seem flat and do nothing extra to add something unique to the film. Except Dashrath manjhi’s charater, all the other characters are extremely forgettable.  Some of the scenes need special mention for they managed to make the film above average. In one of these scenes, Nawazuddin Siddiqui does a Forrest Gump and walks all the way to Delhi to see the Prime Minister of India, because he does not have the money to travel by train.

In another ingenious scene, Indira Gandhi comes to his village and while she is delivering a speech for her ‘Gareebi hatao’ campaign, the podium shakes and begins to fall. Manjhi and others in the audience promptly go and support the podium on their shoulders to prevent the PM from falling, just when she says, ‘Yeh haath apke saath hai… Ye haath Gareebi ka haath hai.’

Another scene that hits you right in the feels, is when Manjhi, fresh after his return to his village, is beaten to pulp for touching the upper caste village head. When he gets home and meets his friends, he tells them, ‘I got a thorough welcome back’, and his friends guffaw in response. This easy acceptance and resignation of the lower caste to their fate is what is extremely sickening.

Also, the CGI effects of the film, need a special mention and for all the wrong reasons. The film opens with a scene with a CGI fire and in between there’s ample use of special effects for fake waterfalls and fake snakes, which seriously dilute the effect of the otherwise brilliant cinematography. Overall, you must watch Manjhi-the mountain man as a tribute to a man who’s indomitable spirit and idealistic ways are extremely inspiring, and also, of course for Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s amazing acting skills.

Film: Manjhi- the Mountain Man; Genre: Biopic; Director: Ketan Mehta; Production: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures; Script: Ketan Mehta, Anjum Rajabali, Mahendra Jhakar; Music: Sandesh Shandilya; Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Gaurav Dwivedi, Pankaj Tripathi, Tigmanshu Dhulia

Rating: 3.5/5