Saturday, August 22, 2015

What the Director wanted us to see: Manjhi- The Mountain Man

The central theme of the story asks us to take matters in your own hand. Not to depend on others. This is summed up well at the end of the movie. When asked how he feels about finally walking down the road through the Mountain, he replies “Don’t depend on god. Who knows, god might be depending on you”.

The movie shows people celebrating the abolition of untouchability, around 8 years after independence. I think the Director wished to draw attention to the fact that 68 years after independence, some of our villages still struggle for water and electricity. Untouchability isn’t an issue in the movie. It is used as a metaphor to talk about the current environment.

Manjhi’s quest to make a road for his villagers and believing in his task irrespective of people calling him fool and an idiot shows the focus we need to have towards work. There will always be naysayers. Single-minded approach always bears fruit. More important is the process rather than the end result. Because process makes fundamental changes in thinking or perspective. End result can be different from what one visualizes when set out towards achieving it.

Two issues the director touches upon though subtly. One, dwindling reserves of water and the Naxalite issue. Drought was a concern in 1960s and is a concern in 2015 as well. We have failed to provide this basic necessity to our people. Technology has improved healthcare and education and overall standard of living but hasn’t been able to address effective utilisation of our water resources. Unfortunately, companies providing water facilities will not get high valuation on stock exchanges. Same applied for the Naxalite issue. A concern in 1960s and in 2015 too. Capitalism has failed to uplift the masses especially in far-flung areas of India. Naxalites will not come into the mainstream unless they see an opportunity that this is addressed.

There is a disclaimer at the start of the movie which says that even thought the story is based on a real event, some creative liberties have been taken. A snake biting Manjhi, and him having to cut off his toe so that the poison doesn’t spread could be one of the fictionalised account. The director must have wanted to show that in a single-minded pursuit of a task, tough decisions should be taken. And if it means physical pain, so be it.

The movie, I suppose, takes a jibe at our democracy. When a make-shift stage during a political rally crumbles under its weight, a few people rush and hold it aloft with their shoulder. And the politician nonchalantly continues with her speech. A police inspector releases Manjhi because people outside the police station shout slogans for his release. And he is released under public pressure. I don’t mean that Manjhi was a criminal and should not be released, it shows that our laws have so many perforations, that arresting someone and releasing them is a subjective issue than objective.

The movie end with the road being built bearing Manjhi’s name. As the end credits roll, you feel sad that the government could only help Manjhi by naming the road after him. Countless un-named people are toiling in India and hope the government reaches them before they give up.

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