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Movie Review: Manjhi ~ The Mountain Man is truly Shandaar, Jabardast, Zindabad!

Very rarely do movies like Manjhi are made that strike a chord and leave a lasting impression on our minds. Inspired by a true story of an uneducated and dirt poor man who took upon himself the impossible task of breaking a mountain so that his village could have a shorter and safe passage to the nearest hospital is an inspiring story.

A man who lost his wife just because the hospital, although so near, could not be reached directly and had to be reached round the big mountain that separated his isolated and neglected village from the rest of the world, Dashrath Manjhi's nerve wrecking, lonely battle against a mountain is brought to life by Nawazuddin Siddiqui so beautifully that several times during the film, I forgot that all this was just acting!

While already a proven and well-admired actor known for his realistic and impressionable acting, I think this is Nawazuddin's best performance till date. He brings to life the character of "The Mountain Man" expertly and takes us to the forgotten and untouched by development, village of Gehlore in Bihar. His acting is passionate and so awe inspiring that even the minor flaws in stuff like makeup that had only his hair graying with no lines on his face to justify his aging, script that often felt a bit too filmy etc. could not bow down his performance and the lessen the spellbinding effect I felt while witnessing the will power and determination of one common man to honour his promise to his dead wife.

Here are the things I liked about the movie:

1) A binding script that held my attention throughout. Issues like 
- exploitation of the poor at the hands of the Zamindars, Government and Police, 
- illiteracy, 
- poverty, 
- child marriage,
- corruption that prevents Government aids from reaching the intended and the laws from getting applied, 
- the Naxalite problem,
- bondage labour that was carried through generations with no option of an out ever given, 
- the general feeling of helplessness and hopelessness faced by the general public and their acceptance of this situation as never-changing,
- the ineptness of police in protecting the common man while they remain at the beck and call of the rich,
- the hypocrisy and shallowness of politics and politicians etc.
are beautifully showcased in the movie and leave us pondering.

2) Classy and memorable performances by Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Dashrath Manjhi and Radhika Apte as Phaguniya (Manjhi's wife).

Radhika has a small role but still shines as Phaguniya who is feisty, determined, independent and hardworking. Deeply in love with her husband and deeply loved in return, she is happy even in her poverty and backbreaking hard work requiring life.

3) Impactful social messages sent through a man who stood alone, faced untouchability even when it got banned, was exploited by the bureaucracy and Government because he was poor and uneducated, mocked at by his friends and family when he took to breaking the mountain and left hopeless with no support from anyone and anywhere but who still believed in himself and ultimately showed everyone that nothing is impossible once we put our minds and heart to it.

4) Realistic picturization of the 1960s era that had me transported to the village of Gehlore of that time.

5) A happy ending that had me standing and mentally applauding the efforts of this small and frail in built but oh so strong minded man who broke a whole mountain for love.

6) A complete emotionally rich experience that had me laughing, crying, feeling angry for then proud of Dashrath Manjhi.

Some things I didn't like about the movie:

1) The language which is full of slang and some scenes that make the movie unfit to be watched by children.

2) The songs are average and nothing memorable. I, often, felt like fast forwarding them.

3) The mix of reality and fantasy does render the movie less effective and holds it back from reaching its true potential despite its inspiring story and admirable acting.

4) This movie is "inspired" by the life of Dashrath Manjhi and not "based on" his life, so many events are pure fiction and somehow rankled in my mind because I knew not everything was real like Manjhi facing the Naxals etc. At some places, I felt that I would have liked to see Manjhi's true story better.

All in all, Manjhi is a movie that becomes a must watch just because of Nawazuddin's acting who becomes Dashrath Manjhi effortlessly and flawlessly in the movie and stays with us long after the movie is finished.

By the end, I was out and out crying, shedding happy tears for Dashrath Manjhi who proved that passion, love and determination can overcome all obstacles and make us achieve even the impossible! 

His life remained "Shandaar, Jabardast, Zindabad" despite all the difficulties and soul crushing sadness faced by him.

4 out of 5 to Manjhi from me and recommended to everyone. Go watch this movie because it is truly "Shandaar, Jabardast, Zindabad"!

The movie should be watched with caution when accompanied by children because of its strong language and some scenes that are not fit for the youngsters.

Some memorable quotes from the movie:

1) Tohar Ko Itna Chahte Hain, Itna Chahte Hain, Itna Chahte Hain, Itna Chahte Hain, Itna Chahte Hain, Kitna Chahte Hain, Kaa Bataye, Seena Chir Ke Dikhaye Bajarang Bali Jaisa.
- Manjhi proclaiming his love for his wife, Phaguniya.

2) Jabh Tak Todenge Nahi, Tabh Tak Chodenge Nahi.

3) Bhagwan Ke Bharose Mat Baithiye, Kaa Pata Bhagwan Humre Bharose Baitha Ho!

Do share your thoughts on Manjhi with me. I love hearing from you. :)

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