A few years ago, I came across a Wikipedia Page and learned about a man named Dashrath Manjhi. His wife was injured, but he couldn’t reach a hospital in time to save her as there was a 360-foot-long towering mountain in the path.  He mourned, and there was passion in his mourning, a passion that drove him to think of breaking a mountain, let alone actually breaking it. He carved a path on the face of a mountain using his hammer and a chisel. Obviously, he did it for love. He was indeed a mountain man, a man with great perseverance, and someone who deserved a great film for his portrayal. Manjhi The Mountain Man is streaming on Netflix, and I would simply call it a love story.

Firstly, it’s a love story between Dashrath Manjhi and his unmisted love for the girl who sells toys for a living. And secondly, for the mountain that he carved for 22 long years. The mountain that stood by his side like a friend who never spoke, like a lover who never questioned his ways, and like a savior who always found ways to protect him. This little story from a very remote place in Bihar is an inspiring one. It shows the transformation of a madcap rat-eater to a saint. It also shows how hard work and willpower can move mountains both in the literal and actual sense.

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As the film’s tagline acknowledges Manjhi as the Mountain Man, I silently nod my head in agreement. I would also add to that and call Nawazuddin Siddiqui a mountain himself. Ketan Mehta’s Manjhi the Mountain Man (Netflix) is an ordinary film about an extraordinary man. One that needs to be seen just because of the amount of hard work and zeal this wild little fellow shows when a hapless incident changes his life for the worse. But when I sit down and fathom over the film’s overall emotional heft, it comes out as a lost cause. A person like Dashrath Manjhi & an actor like Nawazuddin Siddiqui both deserved a better-made film.

The main problem with Ketan’s film is the messed up screenplay. It’s completely all over the place. Important characters, played by class actors like Tigmanshu Dhulia & Prashant Narayanan, come and go without actually making any bigger sense to the overall plot. What starts off as a film ‘Based’ on true incidents slowly becomes one that’s ‘inspired’ by it. Each scene feels like the work of an amateurish team. One that was so sure about the power of its story that they didn’t really pay any attention to other essential detailings.

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Consider a 6-year-old who was given his favorite set of colors and was never told to make something out of them. He will take all of them and start drawing a caricature that only he can truly appreciate. Ketan’s film feels like a huge canvas that wasn’t painted too well. Actors like Nawaz & Radhika Apte make the romance feel real and playful at the same time, but one cannot cancel the feeling that it’s intentionally filmy and cheesy.

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There is a scene in the film where the village suffers a drought. Dashrath Manjhi doesn’t leave the side of the mountain and crawls up to the bottom of an empty well; he uses his tongue to get whatever water he can from the walls of the well. It is moments like these that uplift this poorly executed film to a level of mediocrity. There are more than a few attempts to include social commentary on the basis of caste, status, and power. But they all feel shoe-horned — like the ones where the Naxalites attack the village. It’s not an entirely off-putting scene, but when it doesn’t add up to the overall morale of the film, you just feel bad for the makers.

I will duly mention that this is not Nawaz’s best performance, he has done many great works in the recent past, but he is still the best thing about this film. There are times in the film when even an actor like him hams it up. It can only be seen as a sad and poor attempt on the director’s end, who wasn’t able to use his actors to their utmost potential. But Nawaz still managed to fill me with joy to see this awe-inspiring journey of a man who graduated from getting roles with less than one minute of screen time to get a whole movie to his name.

Mehta’s film ignores most of the aspects of a well-made cinematic experience. He has churned out a film that doesn’t understand the depth of the script and the audacity of its lead actor.


Manjhi The Mountain Man Trailer

Manjhi The Mountain Man (2015) Links: Wikipedia, IMDb
Manjhi The Mountain Man (2015) Movie Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Tigmanshu Dhulia, and Deepa Sahi

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