Shah Rukh Khan
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Ashutosh Gowariker is known to make long films. And though Mohenjo Daro is his shortest, it clearly was difficult for him to keep the length contained to the set limit. The result is an uncomfortably long first half. At some point I started thinking that we are possibly watching the film without an interval. The interval came in at past one and half hours, leaving just an hour for the second half. What could happen in one hour that did not happen in almost two? Apparently a lot!
Set in Mohenjo Daro way back in 2016 BC, Gowariker’s film attempts to tell us a fictionalised account of a man who is drawn by his fate to the city. When Sarman, played by Hrithik Roshan, arrives in Mohenjo Daro the city is already past its prime. Things have gone bad with greed and people have already started using the language of power. Business is also dwindling with and farmers are not quite getting their price. Sarman comes to the city to sell indigo that he had farmed in his village and falls in love with the daughter of the high priest. As he decides to stay in the city for the love of his life he stumbles upon the evil that has taken a hold of the people’s lives.
The city is run by a governing body with representative from all departments – farming, religion, commerce etc. The elected chief of the governing body, Maham (Kabir Bedi), wants to rule the city like a king. And he uses his goons to make the people bow to his wishes. Story follows Sarman and how he discovers his true calling and goes on to free the people of the city from the tyrant.
One of the larger problems of the film is that it feels miserably familiar to too many films. From a macro level the film has similarities with the Lion King. It will also remind of films like Lagaan (teen guna lagaan!) and Agneepath. There is also this great action sequence when the protagonist is put into the ring to fight for his life. Gladiator anyone? There are also several parts when the screenplay is far to lazy. Gowariker seems to have taken inspiration from mythology as well. Sarman’s character, one who prefers the trident during combat, is an obvious references to the hindu god Shiva the destroyer and transformer.
But the biggest problem is hands down the abysmal VFX. For a film that is so heavy of visual effects, Mohenjo Daro comes across as tacky. Aerial shots of the city make you cringe and the flood scene is just not acceptable. It unfathomable why Gowariker would not go to trusted names for the job and instead give it to someone who is not known to have delivered an outstanding work in the department.
Strangely Gowariker seems to have let go off his usual team. He has a new person to design the entire city for him leaving out his usual aide Nitin Desai.
But to his credit, despite all these issues, Gowariker manages to put together a taut second half. This is easily his best second half since Lagaan, one that should keep the audiences hooked with excitement. He is helped by some rather sincere work by the actors. Hrithik Roshan is good and debutante Pooja Hegde looks her part. Kabir Bedi hams at times while Arunoday Singh keeps it subtle.
What is also creditable is Gowariker’s attempt to show the era and the trade. While he could have not shown the clothing (due to nudity) and way of life (lack of evidence), he weaves interesting an viewpoint on how business could have worked in those ages. There are references to the other civilizations that existed around the same time. He also takes into account a lot of what different historians have to say.
He gets the settings right alright. You only wish he got the screenplay and VFX right. Mohenjo Daro could have been a great film. Now it is one film you should probably give a try just to revisit an age we have absolutely no clue about, except its great drainage systems!
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