'Manjhi surpasses Shah Jahan-Mumtaz romance’

You can call it a heroic tale or an epic love saga, Manjhi-The Mountain Man, comes at a time when it seems like the best possible social reform and acts as a rescuer, breaking away from the stereotypical image of films and the film industry. The film traces the journey and life of Dashrath Manjhi,  widely known as the ‘Mountain Man’, a poor labourer in Gehlaur village, near Gaya in Bihar, who with his undiminished will, carved a path through a mountain using only a hammer and a chisel. 

The film which is slated for an August 21 release is directed by veteran director Ketan Mehta and stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the title role with Radhika Apte of Ahalya fame, as his wife.

Here are the excerpts of an exclusive interview with Nawazuddin Siddiqui with our correspondent Sonali Mitra.

What was the basic idea behind Manjhi?
Manjhi is not just a biopic or a tribute to a great man and his efforts towards the betterment of the society. It is much more than that. It is real. The main agenda behind making this film was to spread a message to people, especially the youth. When you dig deep into the small cities and get to know the people, you come across various unexplored truths and facts, which we (people living in big cities) are unaware of. People living in the metropolis and the big cities are becoming self-centered, detached while leading a very materialistic life. They need to learn the art of living and loving, sharing and bonding from people living in small cities who do not live with insecurities and tend to accept and mould themselves according to the complexities of life. This is where a film like Manjhi acts as a breakthrough, which not only talks about a person’s incomparable determination but also humanitarian love for the people of his village and more importantly, his beloved wife. It is a truly inspiring story and a must watch.

Tell us something about the character of Dashrath Manjhi that you have essayed in the film.
With the unconventional concept of bringing a mountain and a man together, the character is basically about the zeal and the determination as well as the madness of a man to conquer the ‘mountain’ of problems that he comes across. Not only that but it also talks about a man’s single-handed hard work, overpowering will and unselfish intention. Such a task requires a great amount of mental strength rather than physical strength as well as a bit of a crazy streak, which is present in all of us that  just needs to be explored and put into proper use. 

Additionally, this film’s main motive is to make people aware of great men like Manjhi, whose greatness was not subjected to personal achievement or materialistic gains but his noble intentions and the unconventional love for his wife, which, in a way, transcends Shah Jahan’s love for Mumtaz. Manjhi was full of life and humour. He used to love having long conversations as well as chitchats with people on various issues. He was a compassionate guy with a small build and lean physique with an indomitable will. He had a specific rhythm of talking which I’ve tried to incorporate in the character.

How was the experience of shooting the film?
It was quite tough considering the conditions and environment that we were shooting in. But at the same time it was fun and exciting. <g data-gr-id="157">Thodi</g> complications <g data-gr-id="158">na</g> <g data-gr-id="164">ho</g> to <g data-gr-id="159">maza</g> <g data-gr-id="160">bhi</g> to <g data-gr-id="161">nai</g> <g data-gr-id="162">aata</g> he shooting <g data-gr-id="163">karne</g> ka. The scenario was a little like this; we were staying in Bodhgaya, which is one and a half hours from Gehlaur and used to wake up at 3 am and travel to that village and start climbing the mountain. Then on the very first day of <g data-gr-id="196">shoot</g>, I was given a real hammer of 20 kgs, which I was unaware of. So, more or less it was an interesting journey throughout.

Oh! So you were actually given a real hammer for the shoot?
Yes. Indeed I was. At first I did not have any idea that I’d be given a real hammer so I was a bit reluctant about it. It’s quite tough to actually hold a real hammer and perform the scene, but then I thought that the hammer that Dashrath Manjhi wielded for the task would have <g data-gr-id="201">been of</g> the same weight. So if he could work with it for 22 years then why can’t I do it for a month? This was the thought that kept me going.

Did you have any inhibitions before playing the role? If yes, then what inspired you to go forward with it?
See, when you are told about a character, a certain image forms in your mind and the need of the hour is to precisely perform that character on screen and make it look as natural and real as it can be. So, a lot of pressure builds up especially in the case of biographical roles, which require more precision and just visualising the role is not enough. Difficulties are <g data-gr-id="207">there</g> but we need to overcome them. Also, I do not want to do stereotypical roles and be typecast. The roles that I choose are the ones that allow me to step out of my comfort zone. This role is one of them as it itself is an inspiring role and urges one to give their 100 <g data-gr-id="156">per cent</g>.

Any take on the recent news of Manjhi’s online leak, 10 days prior to its theatre release? 
Well, it’s quite shocking and distressing but then it should not affect the theatre release as this is not something to be watched on laptop screens. Even you watch it on your laptops, you won’t be able to get that feeling of satisfaction that one can get from watching it on a 70mm screen. This film has depth and message and needs to be felt and experienced. 

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