Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Tigmanshu Dhulia
Directed by Ketan Mehta
All that one is left wondering at the end of Manjhi is what if Nawazuddin was not there in the film. Well, it would certainly have collapsed. He single-handedly holds it together with his impassioned performance and breathes life into a strangely inert piece of story-telling. In this, he is quite like the character he personifies, Dashrath Manjhi, who toiled all alone, hammer and chisel in hand, at carving a road through a mountain for 20 years. The film had much going for it. The fact that it is a Bollywood biopic about a common man, not some public figure, and that it’s a poignant tale of man against nature, caste and administration, all at one go. But Mehta opts for an old-fashioned, larger-than-life way, with characters swinging on the extremes of good and evil with melodrama chosen over subtlety. So the romance between Manjhi and Phaguniya (Radhika Apte, all affectation) takes too much time and is at the expense of the unique relationship of Manjhi with forces of nature. From Naxalism, corruption and Emergency, there are too many issues Mehta dabbles in. Only if he could have focused on the caste politics and untouchability alone! So, Manjhi feels scattered. As a viewer all you feel is a disconnect.