Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Pooja Hegde, Suhasini Mulay, Kabir Bedi, Arunoday Singh, Nitish Bharadwaj, Sharad Kelkar
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Historical movies will never go out of vogue as long filmmakers — and I am referring to both Hollywood and Bollywood — continue to weave credible romance into chunks of history in their storytelling. But occasionally, a crank theory comes along that may be original and weird enough to amaze you with audacity. Ashutosh Gowariker’s Mohenjo Daro is one such film. After the brilliant Lagaan,, Gowariker seems to have created a template of period films (Jodhaa Akbar, Jeete Hain Shaan Se) that would, by his logic, entertain. If not inform much. He goes on to choose larger-than-life subjects and adds his own drama that we should have nothing against; after all, he must take cinematic liberty to tell stories in his unique way.
In Mohenjo Daro, Gowariker plays it safe amid controversies surrounding inaccuracies in the film: not much is known about many aspects of that era, and he carefully lets speculation from all quarters lead to his artistic freedom. He is not breaking any new grounds here; he uses many clichéd problems to allow a humble farmer to rise against all odds in this epic canvas: greed, taxation, corruption, love, betrayal, etc. But while telling us some fundamental stuff, would it not have been more interesting to give us something more than trite and formula-ridden narrative?
Set in 2016 BC at the height of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the tale of doings that take place in the land of Mohenjo-daro is presented to us from the perspective of Sarman (Hrithik Roshan). Poor and hardworking indigo farmer Sarman whose fascination for the city of Mohenjo-daro leads him to flee to the place, has often dreamed about the richness of this place, much to the disappointment of his uncle and aunt (Nitish Bharadwaj and Kishori Shahane), who seem to be burying some truth from him. The film is richly rooted, with splendid trappings, including some breathtaking VFX and visuals. What it lacks is all that could have made it into a moving film — heart.
What could have been a story of extraordinary circumstances and the triumph of the human spirit thrust upon ordinary people, or fortitude and dignity facing adversity and injustice facing, ends up being yet another foreseeable tale. Gowariker and his producer (Siddharth Roy Kapur) have smartly laid emphasis on the powerful and meaningful personal conflicts that are strong in this old heroic tale of a single man’s charisma, but have failed to flesh out characters.
The only thing that one wonders is: has any movie ever been quite so long-drawn-out and flat to destroy interest in history? Because for all its high-budget pomp, Mohenjo Daro is slow — more of a languorously animated coffee-table book than a gripping drama. While uninformed viewers not familiar with history might find bits of it intriguing, most of them would look for some animated action that could spring a few surprises. Alas… there isn’t any!
The writer is a film critic and has been reviewing films for over 15 years. He also writes on music, art and culture, and other human interest stories....