It is a tale of romance and revenge, determination and grit, often drawing comparisons to Shah Jahan’s eternal love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Unlike Shah Jahan though, Dashrath was a mere labourer who was often scoffed at while being branded as “<g data-gr-id="47">pagla</g>”.
After an unfortunate accident in 1960 in which Dashrath lost his wife, <g data-gr-id="42">Phaguniya</g> (Radhika Apte), he plunges into his mission which, like the Taj Mahal, took nearly 22 years off his life. Ketan Mehta’s depiction of the tale begins with Dashrath in a soiled and blood-soaked attire standing on an elevated highland before the mighty mountain seething with anger and swearing revenge against nature which inadvertently had taken his wife’s life. Unfolding in a seamless but non-linear manner, the story reveals Dashrath’s past and present along with his dreams and fantasy.
The screenplay brilliantly captures the socio-political scenario which includes the caste feudalism, the careless and corrupt functioning of the bureaucrats and the callous government. Nawaz does go overboard in a few scenes, but with his rugged appearance and natural histrionics, he steals the show. Of the supporting cast, Ashraf Ul Haque as Dashrath’s father <g data-gr-id="44">Magru</g> leaves an indelible mark with his exquisite performance. Producer Deepa Sahi’s cameo as Indira Gandhi is worth mentioning. The rest of the cast are simply superb doing justice to the roles that they essayed. The dialogues are everyday speech, packed with valuable life lessons. His “Shandaar, <g data-gr-id="45">zabardast</g>, zindabad” becomes a signature dialogue that keeps recurring throughout the latter part of the narration which at times feels unnatural and staged. Overall, “Manjhi - The Mountain Man” is a treat. Though he evokes empathy, the audience, unfortunately, does not get emotionally involved with the proceedings. Probably the roots are too rural or there is something missing.