Mohenjo Daro: Tries the audience’s patience

The very straight, simple and oft-repeated tale of foster parents, mistaken identity, good vs evil is just another fantasy, a mishmash of many such larger than life epics.

August 12, 2016 04:12 pm | Updated August 13, 2016 05:55 pm IST

If you go looking for history in Mohenjo Daro (set in 2016 BC mind you) you might just find little specks of it here and there: in the set of the city, perhaps; in the way it appears to have been laid out and planned. May be in the barter system in operation amongst the traders. But come closer in to the marketplace and the foreign businessmen there make you feel like you are in the ancient Egypt section at Universal Studios.

You won’t find history in the mumbo-jumbo of a lingo which quickly mutates into something reminiscent of K.P. Saxena’s mix of dialects in Lagaan . Sample: “ Chidiya ka bachcha bada hone se pehle ghar chhod de to ud nahin pata ” (If the baby bird leaves home before it’s old enough it won’t be able to fly); “ Hawa mein khot ki boo aa rahi hai ” (There is the smell of wrongdoing in the air); “ Os ki boond hai uska gussa, pal mein hawa ho jaayega ” (His anger is like dew drop, it will vanish in the air).

You won’t find the past staring back at you in the song-and-dance either — a curious mix of whirling dervishes and belly dancing. And you certainly won’t find history in the weird headgear or the strappy Greek sandals or the elegant cotton-handloom-khadi weaves, the open stitching and indigo-dyed fabric worn by the Mohenjo Daro inhabitants that could well inspire FabIndia to launch a brand new range.

In fact, right at the start, the disclaimer makes it quite clear that the Indus Valley civilisation has been open to radically different interpretations by the historians themselves. So how can director Ashutosh Gowariker claim any authenticity?

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Pooja Hegde, Kabir Bedi, Arunoday Singh Run time: 155 minutes

The very straight, simple and oft-repeated tale of foster parents, mistaken identity, good vs evil is just another fantasy, a mishmash of many such larger-than-life epics — from The Ten Commandments to Gladiator via Troy and Baahubali . Gowariker puts in all the hard work and sincerity in the canvas and the mounting, in the seals and the statues but refuses to take the necessary leap of imagination to give us something fresh, something worth taking note of. Mohenjo Daro is a case of seen it all, many a times before.

Hrithik Roshan plays Sarman, a simple indigo farmer in Amri but his entry in the film — the camera drooling over his rippling muscles and then gently gliding over the light eyes and pretty face — slots him more in the league of some Grecian hero. As always. In another scene you again find him lovingly framed, like a beautiful steed, with some real horses for company.

He does a quick fight with a crocodile in the river to establish his heroism, then goes on to dream of a unicorn (the civilisation's purest animal apparently). He wants to travel to Mohenjo Daro but the uncle won’t let him. For him it’s a cesspool of greed which the untainted young boy should stay away from. But he goes there, finds love in Chaani (Pooja Hegde, perpetually pouty, pleased and baffled) and his true calling as well. He defeats the evil villain and his son and embraces the role he was destined to play — that of the ruler, nay the sewak . Before that there are some gladiatorial contests with two man-eating cavemen and killings galore.

Cut through the claptrap and you find Gowariker desperately trying to attempt a political allegory. He tries to pitch political ideas in an elemental, primordial context: be it the anti-dam stance or the take down of taxation which is ostensibly for the welfare of the poor and the downtrodden but actually fills up the Maham’s (evil ruler, Kabir Bedi) coffers and facilitates arms trade. Does that ring a bell?

Gowariker’s primal call is for a culture of protest and for the might of one to take on the whole rotten system. In both Lagaan and Swades the hero is the leader figure who gets the community together for a cause and shows it the way ahead. He helps people win a match in one and generate electricity in another; here Hrithik helps overthrow a despot and build a bridge across a river in fury. Yes, noble ideas all, but the kind that try the audience’s patience than engage them meaningfully.

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