Mohenjo Daro : Movie Review
Rating : 2 stars out of 5 (Average)
Director : Ashutosh Gowariker
Hindi (English subtitles available), 2016
First published in August 2016 in 'Indian Weekender'
In Mumbai filmdom, the biggest enemy of a meaningful script is the so-called "hero". Once this Messiah is done with his proposed modifications to the script, there remains no actual need for a villain. Any semblance of story becomes mere seasoning around the massive meat of the Hero's constant presence, with some lip-locks and fisticuffs rounding out the formula. When 'Mohenjodaro', inspired by the illustrious subcontinental civilization of the same name that was established circa 2500 BCE, unspooled its initial reels, I was still curious to see that ancient world so rarely showcased, but by the time the hero Sarmaan (Hrithik Roshan) has dug his paws, claws and talons into the tapestry, Mohenjodaro gayaa bhaad mein, this picture unquestionably morphs into 'Sarmaan-naama Part I' (with Part II lurking to finish off those who have stayed awake).
If director Ashutosh Gowariker is not careful henceforth, he will become even more successful in undermining the exemplary work he did in 'Lagaan' and 'Swades'. Opening frames, instead of employing imagination to ingeniously introduce us to Mohenjodaro, elects to maroon us in a ravine where some youngsters are trying to snag a notorious crocodile. This poorly directed fail-grade sequence has ear-piercing shouts and a pathetically fake croc, showing how shoddy the graphics are. Any concerns of ecological preservation are murdered to begin with.
Storylines from 'Agneepath' and 'Bahubali' are liberally borrowed to fill up this one. Young brave Sarmaan (Hrithik Roshan) itches to ditch his village and journey to the big bad city. A champion from the get-go , he rebels against the baddies and slowly gathers crowd support as he rises to challenge the evil Senate Chief 'Maham' (a convincingly sinister turn by Kabir Bedi whose face resembles that of an ageing tiger). Along the way, he wins the heart of Chaani ( Pooja Hegde) , a young lass whose ridiculous head-gear is atoned for by her sweetly winsome appeal.
The pic's unique potential would have manifested, had it sported an expert sneak-peek at the details of Mohenjodaro without making it look like a boring documentary, seamlessly blended with an engrossing story of individuals. Alas, Gowarikar's most recent opus falls short on both counts.
Mohenjodaro was a planned city of many architectural niceties, moreover it had intriguing societal organization the details of which are still not clearly understood - but the town and its folks here lack the redolence of yore, with even the few authentic details snowed under by designer touches. Putting a disclaimer at the start of the picture, amounts to weak defence.
The story of hero Sarmaan, his darling Chaani and the evil Maham is a little more interesting, but is ultimately an generic exercise that could be dreamed up by most teenagers. Hrithik is in his default hero mode, doing precious little to test the bounds of his acting. Even the peerless A R Rahman who has previously done great work for the same director, is in limited form.
I earnestly hope Gowariker will ditch Hrithik henceforth. After Jodaa Akbar, this is the second golden brocaded egg they have laid, cracking open to reveal not much within.
After watching "Mohenjodaro", does an Indian feel proud of having witnessed a cine-story of a glorious subcontinental civilization that was one of the world's earliest and best ones? No, simply because this picture is over-cosmeticized , and obsessed with focus on its movie-stars, while showing little interest in gazing at its intrinsic milieu. In fact a gullible kid might come away with the impression that Mohenjodaro was revived by a stud named Sarmaan who French-kissed his mehbooba, slayed monsters and then built an Indian version of Noah's ark. While there's nothing drastically wrong with such onscreen fantasia, Mohenjodaro lacks the narrative juice to pull off such pulpy narratives. Left to the fertile imagination of Mumbai's Tinseltown , its interpretation of "Bethlehem" would sport Jesus Christ heroically rising to kill Pilate and Tiberius, and becoming the everlasting Roman Emperor while the crowds sob and cheer (direction notwithstanding).
UPNWORLD welcomes your comments.