The film is directed by Ketan Mehta, who previously made Rang Rasiya and Mangal Pandey!
What’s it about:
Manjhi is inspired by a true story of Dashrath Manjhi who carved a path through a mountain in Gehlaur, Bihar using only a hammer and chisel for 22 years! Manjhi starts off with a hair-raising scene where a blood-drenched Manjhi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) screams at the mountain range and threatens it by saying he will break its pride! The movie then follows a non-linear pattern afterwards. The first track starts from 1960, when Manjhi sets out to break the mountain using only a hammer. People call him a lunatic, and children pelt stones at him, but he trudges on. The second track is about his romance with Phaguniya (Radhika Apte), his child bride, and later his wife, and how her death leads to his determination to carve a road through the hills. Even his starving kids, the drought that nearly empties his village, hunger or thirst, snakebite and corruption couldn't budge him from his mission. In the interim, he became friends again with his enemy - the hills! And by the time he completes the path, you feel that you have yourself completed that journey with him! Manjhi is the tale of a man who is one of those real unsung hero that we could fail to recognise when alive, while we chase after those fake deities!
Knock, knock...can I hear the National award knocking on the film's leading man's door? Nawazuddin Siddiqui is...I really don't know if there are any positive words adjectives still left in English vocabulary to praise him! He is brilliant, he is fabulous, he is the rock that steadies the ship, in this case, the movie, whenever it threatens to tip over! Be it his romance with his wife (their courtship reminded me of Mel Gibson's romantic interludes in Braveheart) or his back-breaking journey in the second half, you just can't take your eyes off him! Radhika Apte is aptly cast as Manjhi's wife. Even though her screen-time is not much, her chemistry with Nawaz is adorable! The supporting cast is also good, especially Ashraf Ul Haque who plays Manjhi's father. Ketan Mehta has done a commendable job behind the scenes, and he is ably supported by the cinematographer, Rajiv Jain, and a brilliant BG score, by Shandesh Shandilya. Certain scenes like how Manjhi toiled through thirst and hunger, his foot journey to Delhi, the little family moments with his wife and later kids are deftly handled. The best part is that Manjhi is not shown a superman. He is just a normal man like us who doesn't give fiery speeches that motivate people or get down to violence to prove a point to the villains, and that's what makes him so relatable!
For people who are looking for a pakka commercial venture, they will be sorely disappointed. The film takes its sweet time to reach the conclusion, and there is no added masala for viewer's pleasure, like an item song or dishoom dishoom. The presence of a couple of imaginary songs also adds to the lag. The talented Tigmanshu Dhulia is made to repeat his Gangs of Wasseypur act. Actually a couple of initial scenes involving Tigmanshu, Pankaj Tripathi and Nawaz do remind you of the Anurag Kashyap flick. I also wish there would have little more focus on the equation between Manjhi and his kids, especially when they are grown up.
What to do:
This one is purely for those who love serious, meaningful cinema like the kinds of Masaan, and the ones who adore a gifted talent called Nawazuddin Siddiqui. If you are one of those, please book your tickets asap (i.e. if you haven't watched the leaked copy by now. And if you have, you missed the larger experience! The laptop screen really doesn't register the impact of a small man working against the mountain!).
3.5 out of 5
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