Movie Review: Manjhi

Only one thing comes to mind after watching Ketan Mehta’s biopic on the late Dasrath Manjhi, the man from Bihar who turned a mountain into a molehill—a lesser actor would have crumbled under the weight of this character.

But not Nawazuddin Siddiqui; he stands tall to deliver a powerful impersonation of the man who labored for love’s sake. Even though the entire handling of the subject is weak, Siddiqui pulls the flaws towards himself (all eyes are on him), absorbs the pressure and like the original Manjhi, chips away at the faults, to carry the weight of this film on his shoulders.

Giving him admirable support is another scorcher of a performer, Radhika Apte. The girl is carving a niche for herself as an actress of immense depth and talent. Portraying Manjhi’s wife, she pulls off the village girl look and performance with aplomb.

Although it is admirable that Ketan Mehta chose the life of a lesser-known mortal for a biopic, he erred in turning this out into a blockbuster, simply because his narration was not fluid. Also, the breaking of the mountain with only a chisel and a hammer, a rarest of rare feat, has been picturized with no depth. It’s a very meek portrayal. It had the potential of having much, much, much more impact.

Every time we see Manjhi breaking on a rock on the ground, rather than carving a hole into the mountain!

Mehta has managed to get the settings to a nicety and even picked up a deserving supporting cast. The village scenes, the outfits and local political situation scenarios have been well captured.

Ketan’s biggest scoop is when he has Indira Gandhi posing with Manjhi, just after she has delivered a Garibi Hatao speech in his village in Bihar. As Manjhi approaches her with his problem, she puts on a smile on her face and her hands on his shoulder to be captured by the photographers. Immediately after that, her hands come off and she walks off.

Just like that!

Coming back to Dasrath Manjhi, the man was a poor labourer from Gehlaur village in Bihar. After losing his wife to lack of medical attention and also because the nearest hostipal was over 70 kms away due to the mountain surrounding his village, he decided to make a way through it. It took him 22 years.

It’s a pity that feats like these are not celebrated and brought to the notice of the common man, while lesser known ‘celebrities’ hog the limelight.

What Manji did benefitted his entire village and he labored at it because of the love he had for his wife.

Love, can truly move mountains!

On the other hand, love for your craft, too can move acting to a surreal level. Kudos to Nawazuddin Siddiqui [who is the life of this film] and Radhika Apte. Without these two, I am sure this Mountain Man movie would have crumbled like a pack of cards.

Kudos also to Ketan Mehta for bringing alive on screen the life of Dasrath Manjhi; his story needed to be told throughout the world.

Rating: 3 / 5

Martin D’Souza

This first appeared on on August  21, 2015

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