STORY: This is biopic of Dashrath Manjhi, India’s mountain man who single-handedly made a road through the mountains of Gehlaur. What gave him the strength to take on this onerous task is his deep love for his wife who meets with an accident here.
REVIEW: The film starts with a monologue between a man, Dashrath(Nawazuddin) and a mountain. Wearing blood-soaked clothes, the diminutive hero admonishes the mountains,(captured beautifully by cinematographer Rajeev Jain) that stretch endlessly before your eyes, saying, “So you think you are too big? Well I’m not stopping till I reduce you to rubble.”
Of course for those who are familiar with the story of Dashrath Manjhi, there are few surprises. This villager from Gehlaur attacked a mountain for over two decades and emerged victorious when he managed to build a path right through.
The story starts in Wazir Ganj in the 50s, where a young Dashrath is married to a child-bride Phagunia. Born in abject poverty, Dashrath’s family eats dead rats to survive. The village Zamindar (Tigmanshu Dhulia) commits atrocities of the kind that makes your stomach churn. Sample this—those who do not pay their debts have nails hammered in their feet, like the ones put into a horse’s hooves! This aside, there is third-degree that is proof of the times when the rich ruled over the underprivileged.
Before he is a made a slave to this demon landlord, Dashrath escapes. He returns seven years later, only to fall deeply in love with his child-bride Phagunia(Radhika Apte) who has grown into a sensuous woman.
However an accident alters Dashrath’s life forever. Like a demented man, he picks up hammer and chisel and starts his journey as India’s mountain man. This is a faith-inspiring story of resolve and resilience.
His portrayal of Manjhi is another feather in Nawaz’s cap. The graph he brings to his screen character– from a carefree lover to a burdened soul– is the stuff that separates actors from many cardboard cutouts, loosely referred to as stars. Sultry Radhika shines throughout. Why this film that had so much potential doesn’t deserve superlatives is because of the inconsistency in the story-telling. While some scenes leave you scarred and teary-eyed, others don’t even scratch the surface.