Sometimes, there are movies that depict a certain culture and time period that calls for intense and meticulous research. Whether it’s a period movie like Gone With The Wind, Braveheart or Pride and Prejudice, attention is paid to the details, the locations, the costume, the mannerisms and the general feel of the movie.
Coming to Bollywood, there have been some wonderful period movies, Mughal e Azam from the yesteryear era right down to Lagaan and Bajirao Mastani. These movies transport you to that era and there is a great deal of enjoyment as we take a break from the real world to enter that world of the 1800s or 1900s.
With a title like Mohenjo Daro, you expect to be taken back to at least 2000 years BC, into the prosperous Indus Valley Civilization. You expect to be immersed in the culture of those times, what people did, what they wore, what they ate, how they traded and their way of life. Mohenjo Daro means Mound of the Dead, and you are curious to know more about this city.
With Mohenjo Daro, we get absolutely none of that.
In fact, you are wondering about the three years of research that the director undertook to create this movie. As soon as the trailer for this movie was released, there were a lot of snickering and disillusionment. “It’s messed up big time!” was one of the tweets about the trailer. I understand that this movie is not a documentary about the lost Indus Valley Civilization, and is instead a love story, but even then, it all misfires.
So, what went wrong in a movie that could have had the potential to be a massive blockbuster? Lots, actually.
- The story. It’s so run of the mill that the CGI and songs and dance doesn’t ever cover up for the weak script. A poor farmer becomes a hero after fighting off a gigantic crocodile. aims to go to the city of Mohenjo Daro with big dreams, encounters the priest’s daughter, falls in love, has to battle the evil ruler who’s hoarding all the water and emerges as the savior for the city. Have we not seen this story line umpteen times already. In fact, many times we feel like we are watching a retread of Lagaan.
- The CGI. Right in the opening scene, we see our hero Sarman (Hrithik Roshan) fight off an unusually large crocodile (mind you, this crocodile actually flies over the boat!). When you see such fake looking effects, you are put off. Not to mention the ending where the great flood happens–you wish the director had taken his movie to Hollywood instead to get some decent effects.
- Confusion of Civilization. This is Mohenjo Daro (which is present day Sindh, Pakistan). This is NOT Egypt, where the structures are shaped like ziggurats. Nor is this set in Gladiator era. This isn’t Prince or Persia also. Or for that matter, this is NOT Lagaan. Why does it feel like over and over that we are being shown some other civilization?
- Silliness of it all. In a central scene where Sarman goes undercover during the Great Bath ritual by only wearing two stripes of face paint on his cheeks. Everyone is fooled and no recognizes him. How stupid can these people be, let alone us audience who’ve paid to watch this movie? Many moments like this make you cringe. The costumes looked out of place. The whirling dervishes and belly dancers in this part of the world really asks the audience to stretch their imaginations.
This is somewhat sad, because, honestly speaking, there was a lot of potential with this movie. The movie has it’s heart in the right place, but the execution went awry.
- Hrithik Roshan does a great job of acting. He’s one of the finest actors India has. It’s a pity he’s being painted a Greek God in this movie which lets him down.
- Even the female newcomer Pooja Hegde does a decent job. Her job is to look coyly or surprised. That’s it. Oh yes, show a leg here and there.
- Granted, there is not much evidence about the way of life of Indus Valley civilization, but they do this much that they were a very organized culture, with a strict emphasis on cleanliness. Along with this, they were also a very peaceful civilization, so all this idea of violence, arms and weapons doesn’t fit in well. The director has gone on to defend a lot of his creative, artistic decisions were taken because there isn’t much source material available. Also, the ending is not how the city was destroyed according to historians. So that’s all mumbo jumbo nonsense.
- There is a highlight when Sarman has to fight two seven feet giants a la Gladiator style in the battle arena. There is some level of excitement and tension which holds your attention. But then, moments like these are very few in the movie.
The trailer was booed. The box office ratings are poor. Which is again sad because Ashutosh Gowariker directed the brilliant Lagaan that was eventually nominated for Best Foreign movie at the Oscars.
Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. I was warned and I saw it on cable TV and avoided it at the cinema myself.
1.5 out of 5 (1.5 goes to Hrithik Roshan and AR Rehman for background music)