‘Manjhi - The Mountain Man’, the title of Indian director Ketan Mehta’s follow-up to his acclaimed biopics, is a career-defining movie for Nawazuddin Siddiqui. It is based on the life of Dashrath Manjhi - a poor labourer in Gehlaur village, India, who made a way through a mountain with the help of hammer and chisel. The movie stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Pankaj Tripathi in pivotal roles.

Analysis

Ketan Mehta, who has given a gem like 'Mirch Masala' to Hindi cinema, has made a substantial endeavour to bring to light the life of Dashrath Manjhi through his work. Though Mehta captures few nuances of Manjhi's life with utmost dexterity and directorial finesse, the frequent flashback of the past every now and then makes it difficult to concentrate on the subject.

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'Manjhi - The Mountain Man' can fairly be divided into two distinct parts. The first revolves around the building up of romance between Manjhi [Nawazuddin Siddiqui] and Phaguniya [Radhika Apte] - which results into their marriage, two children and Phaguniya's demise. On the other hand, the second hour follows Manjhi's struggle to fulfill the pledge that he has made - to carve a path through the mountains. On a serious note, none of them works very well. The role of Manjhi is thinly written - while the dialogues are mediocre and repetitive. The dialogue writers simply failed to breathe life into Manjhi's lines.

It doesn't mean that the movie is without brilliant moments. There are moments which really stand out and make you notice the directorial finesse of Mehta. The moment when Manjhi encounters with Phaguniya for the first time is a combination of eccentricity and quirkiness.

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On the other hand, Manjhi and Phaguniya's love-making scene in the water will leave you astonished. Watch out for the sequence, when Manjhi gets close to Phaguniya in the village fair - her eyes radiated a sparkling emotion and her tongue told him to back-off. What a brilliant act that was! 

To say that Nawazuddin Siddiqui was born to play Dashrath Manjhi, the man who broke the mountain to carve a path towards Wazirgunj, might sound like a cliché. Playing on the role with his inimitable flair, he deftly oscillates between the role of a generous human being and determined lover. It's an impressive performance, delivered with the infectious intensity.

Radhika Apte... I believe she doesn't know how to hit a wrong note ever. She has a long way to go in the industry. It is surprising that how I was unable to put my eyes off her in the first half, while watching ‘Manjhi - The Mountain Man’. Her odd pairing with Nawazuddin Siddiqui really paid off very well. Radhika has a natural talent to radiate a cornucopia of emotions through her eyes – even when she was quite her eyes conveyed a lot. Tigmanshu Dhulia, to be frank, can now sleepwalk through a role like this.

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I hope he experiments new types of roles in upcoming movies. 

Verdict

The #Film moves at a brisk pace throughout, but the moments towards the climax seem stretched to the point of exhaustion. However, towering performances by Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte are this film's strength, but Ketan Mehta doesn’t quite harness the talent that he has got. What might have turned out to be one of the year's best films, is now a wasted opportunity. 

Rating: ★★½ #Celebrities #Bollywood