“Manjhi – The Mountain Man” takes you through the painful journey of a so-called low caste Bihari who takes on a mountain to avenge his wife’s death.
Based on a true story, the movie depicts how, the determined Dashrath Manjhi carved out a road through a mountain using only hammer and chisel in spite of all the bashing received from the fellow villagers (including his father), conspiracies by the village head to stop him and fake promises by the government. In the backdrop, the movie spends some significant time in the build up of the entire story, which is the life of Dashrath Manjhi before the incident – introducing the audience to the rampant and barbaric view of caste based discrimination in Bihar during 50s and 60s, which is prevalent to some extent even today, not just in Bihar but across India. The story is extremely well written and thoroughly researched. It is a story that deserved to be told to the entire country.
Apart from Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the movie doesn’t boast of any big names. However, with the support cast of NSD stars – (late) Ashraf Ul Haq and Pankaj Tripathi – and the promising Radhika Apte, acting is one of the strongest departments of the movie. Their hard work behind projecting the characters is evident and the Bihari accent never sounds taught. The dialog delivery is impeccable and does great justice to the writer who wrote them. Some of the dialogs are very profound and will keep you pondering over it. A special mention for Radhika Apte who has rose like a phoenix through some of her recent performances in short movies – That Day After Every Day and Ahalya – and upped the benchmark in Manjhi, complementing and competing with Nawazuddin, in terms of acting.
Ketan Mehta has done a stupendous job in terms of ensuring the movie doesn’t lose momentum at any point of time. The flow of the story moves back and forth between the years before his wife’s death and after the death. But never, for once, it loses audience attention – full marks to the editing team for that. Some of the scenes are a complete surprize in terms of conceptualization and executed to perfection. His depiction of the socio-political scenario in Gehlaur during 50s and 60s through various incidents that Dashrath Manjhi and his wife encounter shows the depth of research that has went before shooting the movie. Some of the scenes are gruesome (even though a reality at that time) and makes you cringe. At one point of time, it reminded me of Prisoners which had a similar aura.
I would also add the “mountain” to the list of characters as the movie also portrays how its relationship with protagonist evolves over a period of time. Although the movie celebrates the victory of a man over a mountain, it also portrays Manjhi’s relationship with the mountain and its evolution from his childhood till he carves out the road through it.
Overall, the movie is a must watch. It shows what strong determination can achieve against all odds.