Manjhi, The Mountain Man

If you are looking for a review, this isn’t one. Now that I have given a fair warning and you still want to read it then I must tell you it’s plain and pure ranting about this amazing movie I saw recently.

I hadn’t seen the trailer of this movie ( I rarely see them and if I do, it’s generally after I have seen the movie) and didn’t know that it starred Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte. What got me interested in the movie was a one line praise from my brothers in our whatsapp group and suddenly I was all alert. So I watched the film finally.

The film is a masterpiece and true to the story of Dasrath Manjhi on whose life it’s based. Dashrath Manjhi was a poor laborer from a low caste from the village of Gehlaur in Gaya, Bihar. Why make a film on him? Because well he broke a mountain with his share hard work and determination. It took him 22 years but he carved a way through the mountain and made it easier for his village folks to access medical help.

The story of Dashrath Manjhi as told by Ketan Mehta feels like a heartwarming love story. Dashrath played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui is to the point. Watching him I forgot that I was watching an actor. After watching Radhika in “Ahalya” I had no doubt that she could pull off Phaguniya with elan.

I watched the movie elatedly devouring the language and the familiar air of a Bihari village. In Bihar there’s a North Bihar and there’s a South Bihar. Gaya, Nalanda, Rajgir, Biharsharif, Pawa etc. are in South Bihar and share a similar culture and language. In South Bihar the languages spoken are all different versions of Magahi. To hear the actors and the co-actors and the background people speak Magahi albeit broken was a delight. I loved to hear those familiar words in the familiar accent.

Anyways coming back to the film, the film doesn’t try to gloss over or romanticize the tale of Dashrath Manjhi. It puts the whole story the way it is. We get a glimpse of the pre-independence India when the only means to survive for the lower caste people was to work as bondage laborer. We also see the India which declared bondage labor as a crime and every caste as equals. We also see how the upper caste people in the villages reacted to this news. We see different phases of India through this tale.

Manjhi is the story of passion, of determination and of love. Manjhi is prompted to break the mountain after the untimely death of his beloved wife. In the scene where Manjhi learns from the doctor about the death of his wife I couldn’t control my tears. The pain seemed to travel through Nawaz’s eyes to my soul. This is the power of an actor who learns to emote with his eyes, face and soul.

The story of Dashrath Manjhi’s journey is not something that’s untold. It’s there on the internet for everyone to read. But to truly immortalize it through cinematic medium, Ketan Mehta and Nawazuddin Siddiqui have truly done a commendable task.

The film also lays bare the truth of Indian politics when selling dreams to common men and realizing its own ends. Manjhi represents those millions of honest and naive men and women who have faith in the government and its power to do right. The film very subtly breaks that myth. You travel with Nawaz as Manjhi and you feel his pain. There’s a very poignant scene in the film where Manjhi supports the stage on which Indira Gandhi is giving speech about her aim and efforts to eradicate poverty. When she is finished and about to depart Manjhi forgets that he is supporting the stage and goes after her to ask the kind lady for a concrete road from Gehlaur to Wazirganj. Indira Gandhi looks at him bewildered, hands him her garland, gets a photo clicked and leaves. In that one moment you realize that how bewildered political parties and their representatives are when approached with request for basic needs by common men. For them basic needs of a common man are good only for speeches and political rallies.

I can’t stop raving about Nawzuddin Siddiqui whose struggle in the film industry has been no less harrowing than Dashrath Manjhi’s. Nawazuddin struggled for years in an industry where good looks and a star backing is the pre-requisite to get a role in a film. While every year crappy actors get star studded launches, real actors like Nawaz have to struggle to even survive. Nawaz has certainly broken the mountain and paved way for others but it remains to be seen how long will it take the industry to finally make a concrete way on it.

Nawaz the real life Manjhi


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