Ashutosh Gowariker is one of the few filmmakers who have tasted success while making period dramas. Though the director had a rough start what with two of his first films, ‘Pehla Nasha’ and ‘Baazi’ (both unofficial remakes of Hollywood films), turning out to be damp squibs, he found his ground with ‘Lagaan’. ‘Lagaan’, a period film based in the Colonial era, is a landmark film and can be easily regarded as one of the best film Hindi films ever made. Though his next film ‘Swades’ could not set the cash registers ringing, it is talked about with a lot of respect. ‘Jodhaa Akbar’, a historical drama starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai in the title roles, was a commercial and critical success. After that, Gowariker made ‘What’s Your Raashee?’ and ‘Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Say, films that the majority of the audience chose to stay away from. More than five year after his last film hit the screens, the director is back with ‘Mohenjo Daro’, probably the first film to be set in the pre-historic Indus Valley Civilization. While the trailer was tepid and the promotional material that followed was barely exciting, one hopes the director, who failed to deliver a good cinematic experience to the audience with his last two films, succeeds in putting across his vision effectively.
Sarman, a young man who lives in a small village called Amri with his uncle (Nitish Bharadwaj) and aunt (Kishori Shahane Vij), is out to hunt a dangerous crocodile. After a prolonged battle with the beast, Sarman manages to kill him. Though his aunt does not approve of him taking on such life-risking tasks, he receives a hero’s welcome in his village for his heroic deeds. Sarman helps out his uncle in carrying out his small trading business but for some reason, his uncle does not allow him to venture into Mohenjo Daro, which is the epicentre of trading activities. Realising that Sarman would not breathe easy unless he visits Mohenjo Daro, his uncle gives him the permission to go there. Along with his friend Hojo (Umang Vyas), Sarman heads to Mohenjo Daro, a city that he had never fascinated but one which has always fascinated him. After reaching Mohenjo Daro, he is shocked to see the brutalities exercised upon by Nagar Pradhan/King Maham (Kabir Bedi) and his son Munja (Arunoday Singh). Sarman decides to go back to Amri but changes his decision when he stops Chaani (Pooja Hegde), the daughter of the chief/royal priest (Manish Chaudhari). A series of incidents coax Sarman into staying in Mohenjo Daro for some time and drive him towards unearthing his connection with the city.
The opening sequence of the film, which features Hrithik Roshan battling it out with a crocodile, reeks of bad CGI and shows people talking to each other in an undecipherable language. As the scripts received from the excavation of these pre-historic sites still remain to be unfathomable, director Ashutosh Gowariker gives the characters some inane words to mutter that mean nothing. Throughout the rest of the film, the characters speak in chaste Hindi interspersed by twisted version of Hindi/Urdu words like ‘sapina’, ‘halaalkhor’ etc. hoping that it would lend some sort of authenticity to the film. Fortunately or unfortunately, these are not the film’s major problems.
Making a film on an era which very little is known about could be very exciting. As there is not much of recorded data or archives on Mohenjo Daro, Gowariker (also the writer) could have come up with a far more interesting story that would have complimented the milieu. Alas, the film fails to rise above the countless clichés that the script is ridden with. While the first half has a few engaging moments and concludes on a fairly good interval point, one expects the drama to soar in the second half but that does not happen. The romance between Sarman and Chaani which had begun on a good note, shimmers down and the confrontational scenes between Sarman and the antagonists are tepid. The second half has a plethora of action sequences but they are so poorly choreographed that they do anything but enthral you.
Hrithik Roshan’s glorious performance is one of the very few things that makes this tedious film worth a watch. The actor immerses himself completely in the role and every scene he enacts oozes sincerity. Pooja Hegde looks beautiful and even though her role offers her with a limited scope to perform, she shows promise as an actor. Kabir Bedi tries his best to come across as a menacing character but his role of a caricaturish villain does not let him bring any sort of histrionics on display. The same goes for Arunoday Singh.
‘Mohenjo Daro’ does great disservice to its leading actor whose bravura performance deserves to witnessed by one and all. Equally remarkable is A. R. Rahman’s soundtrack, the background score and the songs contribute greatly towards lending uniformity to a patchy narrative. ‘Mohenjo Daro’ is a mild improvement on Ashutosh Gowariker’s last two films but nowhere close to the films he is known for.