The film is directed by Ashutosh Gowariker.
I went to watch Mohenjo Daro with very few expectations, a film that brings Ashutosh Gowariker and Hrithik Roshan after the superhit Jodha Akbar. After Jodha Akbar, Ashutosh Gowariker has gone through a huge slump in his career with two back to back flops. The trailer and songs for Mohenjo Daro didn't entice viewers much, but there have been times when the trailers have been lacklustre but the film has surprised us.
Unfortunately, there is not much respite here...
What's it about
Sarman (Hrithik Roshan), an indigo farmer from Amri, always wanted to go to Mohenjo Daro, the big town nearby his village, and even has dreams that have links to the place. However, his uncle Durjan (Nitish Bhardwaj) is reluctant to send him there, due to a secret in the pasty. But Sarman manages to convince him to give the permission to visit the much famed land. When he reaches there, he himself feels he has some past connection to the place. Mohenjo Daro is, sadly, ruled by a evil despot Maham (Kabir Bedi), and his equally evil son Moonja (Arunoday Singh). There is also a raving lunatic, as seen in every village (I think that was Narendra Jha, inspired from Woody Harrelson in 2012). Disillusioned by their rule, Sarman wants to leave the place, however, he gets enticed by Chaani (Pooja Hegde), the priest's daughter and said to be the river Sindhu's incarnate. As their love story blossoms, Sarman learns about his past and also faces the dark forces that's threatening the city from inside, as well as from the outside.
The biggest reason why anyone would get into a theatre screening Mohenjo Daro would be to know about Indus Valley civilization, and the era in which the film is based. Though I cannot say that Ashutosh Gowariker has done complete justice to the era, he needs to be lauded for his courage to even attempt a film about that period. Only a visionary director like him can attempt to make a movie of this grandeur, and he succeeds to some limit in not making a complete mess of the period as everyone would assume. His direction also make the proceedings of the initial parts of the film bearable, especially after Sarman reached Mohenjo Daro and meets Chaani. Mohenjo Daro is also bearable thanks to a convincing performance by Hrithik Roshan, though it's time he needs to pick up roles that challenges him to bring variety in his performance. Among the supporting cast, Manish Chaudhary and Nitish Bhardwaj stand out, while Sharad Kelkar is effective in a cameo.
There is a scene in the film which I liked a lot. It was about how a girl burns the pyre of her dead father, something that is still seen as a no no in our so called modern society. Here was a chance for Ashutosh to show how 'modern' our ancestors were compared to us, but then the film would take the focus out of our hero, and this is a no no for any Bollywood film.
You have read a lot about how historically inaccurate the film is about the era in which it is based, and I am sure even after watching the film, it won't change that opinion much. Ashutosh does try to justify a few things here and there, like how horses were present in India even before it was domesticated here, but overall, don't expect him to be a history teacher here. Even if you accept this and watch the film like a Bollywood potboiler, you would be disappointed by the fact that film offers you nothing new in terms of plot or even the characters. If you have seen the first trailer, you have actually seen the entire film. It's like Agneepath revisited - a son returning to his roots, and later wanting to take revenge on the people who killed his father. It's a tale that could be set anywhere, forget the ancient times, and Ashutosh offers nothing new to the plot. It's just old wine in an old bottle. It doesn't help matters that like any of his films, even Mohenjo Daro suffers from tedious pacing issues and needed a lot of cuts, including a long drawling flood-infested climax . While the production team has managed to bring alive the artefacts from that era, it mostly looks like a checklist taken from what we learnt about the history - tablet with the unicorned goat, check. Dancing girl statue, check. The Great Bath (that looks like a swimming pool), check. The CGI is atrocious at places, especially in the much talked about croc attack in the start, as well as the flood scene in the climax. As for the music, this is perhaps AR Rahman's most disinterested work, with only Tu Hai managing to make some impact.
Let's talk about the other performances - Pooja Hegde is a gorgeous sight to watch, but she looks more like a girl plucked out of a campus love story than a strong female who can control the village if she wants. As for the villains, both Kabir Bedi and Arunoday Singh are just seen grunting and growling, and yet incite little terror in us.
What to do
This is no Lagaan. This is no Jodha Akbar. Mohenjo Daro may be better that Ashutosh's What's Your Raashee? (actually anything is better than that bore), but the film is a let down on several counts. Watch it only if you want to satiate your curiosity about that era (even that won't help much) or for Hrithik Roshan. If you want to see a film that lets you learn more about the Indus Valley civilization, forget the idea and open your third standard history books.
2.0 out of 5
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