A 20-foot crocodile and a muscular, tanned man wrestle it out. The crocodile is hungry, the man is determined. The man does everything to kill it, the crocodile does everything to outsmart him. Minutes later, the crocodile goes for the kill. So does the man. With his three-pronged spear in position, the man waits for the crocodile to leap on him. The crocodile, predictably, falls into the trap and dies. And a hero is born.
The entire time, you keep wondering why it’s so familiar.
Ashutosh Gowariker’s Mohenjo Daro takes you back in time. To a time when you went to a theme park as a kid, and watched costumed people pretending to be historical figures. It’s not convincing. But who visits theme parks for history lessons anyway? The same applies to Mohenjo Daro.
Gowariker had made it clear that he took a few creative liberties with the film. But blatant historical inaccuracies are the least of the film’s problems.
Sarman (Hrithik Roshan) is an indigo farmer from a village. The village is full of honest people. One night, Sarman dreams of an ethereal unicorn, drinking water from a magical lake. A shrill tune plays in the background. He yearns to see the wealthy city of Mohenjo Daro. It’s a whole new world for him.
So he goes there, as a traveller. The city is as beautiful as promised. He makes some friends, and finds out that it’s being ruled by the cruel Maham (Kabir Bedi) and his son Moonja (Arunoday Singh). He also falls in love with Channi (Pooja Hegde), the city priest’s daughter.
And with this romance, all hell breaks loose.
The film explodes into scenes of destruction, deaths, colourful celebrations, and brutal fights. Through all this, Sarman treads the path to self-discovery. Soon enough, the future of Mohenjo Daro will fall on his shoulders. And we’ll be left wondering – will the hero rise to the occasion?
Of course he will. The plot is so generic, that we know what the climax will be 30 minutes into the film.
Riddled with hamming and campy dialogues, it’s hard to believe that Mohenjo Daro was made by the same Ashutosh Gowariker who directed Lagaan and Jodha Akbar. Like Lagaan, Mohenjo Daro is a tale where the oppressed take on the oppressor. And like Jodha Akbar, Mohenjo Daro stars Hrithik Roshan. But Lagaan was about its story, and Mohenjo Daro is about its star. Jodha Akbar had a restrained Hrithik enhancing a simple storyline with fine acting. In Mohenjo Daro, Sarman constantly needs to do good, his hidden super-strength drives the resolution, and he manages to utter the words ‘Mohenjo Daro’ in every sentence. Just so we know he’s the hero.
It’s as if Gowariker decided to focus on the special effects, and little else.
Forget the numerous historical inaccuracies in the film – an actual unicorn, pre-Aryan horses, fair-skinned Harappans, women wearing feathers in their hair, and more. We have bigger problems with a confused hero who has no clue about his origins and capabilities but develops ‘superstrength’ when the need arises. The heroine is beautiful, delicate, and constantly needs saving. The evil villain grits his teeth extra hard to show his anger. There’s also the city madman, who sings truthfully about the evil ruler and the hero’s origins, but nobody listens to him.
Mohenjo Daro adheres to the quintessential male-centric plot with a romantic subplot just for the sake of it. Sarman is an all-rounder. Handsome, smart, and compassionate, he can disposes off a crocodile and some giants in a matter of minutes. His love is pure and innocent. The people believe that he’s the hero they needed to save the city.
After a point, the sugar-coated dialogues become unbearable. Especially when he says things like, “You want to rule Mohenjo Daro, but I want to serve it!”
Maham, the despotic ruler of the city, loves weapons, loves gold, and loves sentencing people to death. His evil son is quite the brat. The actor, who goes out of his way to show that he’s surprised, upset, angry or elated, takes hamming to a different level. In one scene where he duels with Sarman, Moonja contorts his face beyond recognition to show that he is serious about defeating the hero. Every strike is accompanied by a growl.
Pooja Hegde as Channi is essentially an add-on to Sarman’s journey of self-discovery in Mohenjo Daro. We know she’s the heroine because in all the film’s posters she wears that outlandish, ahistorical headgear. Every time she removes the headgear, she reverts to being a nonentity on screen. She lacks the power to even move when wild horses come charging at her. Of course, it gives Sarman the perfect opportunity to intervene and don his ‘horse-whisperer’ cape.
Channi may show sparks of intelligence, but unlike Lagaan‘s Gauri or Jodha Akbar‘s Jodha Bai, she is reduced to being the classic damsel in distress.
AR Rahman’s music is pleasant but out of place. ‘Tu Hai, in particular, is powerful, and leaves the audience with goosebumps. But the visuals don’t match the music. The usually loud Hrithik lip syncing to Rahman’s calm and melodious voice just doesn’t work.
The best thing about Mohenjo Daro is the stunning special-effects work. Aside from that, Mohenjo Daro has little to offer. Other than saving someone a trip to the theme park.
The Mohenjo Daro review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.