Art & Culture

How Manjhi - The Mountain Man ridicules Indira Gandhi

Saurabh Dwivedi
Saurabh DwivediAug 17, 2015 | 17:28

How Manjhi - The Mountain Man ridicules Indira Gandhi

The epitome of politics, that’s Bihar. Be it the neighbourhood watchman or a UPSC aspirant slugging it out in Delhi, almost anyone and everyone can (and does) comment on its politics. And with the Assembly elections round the corner, “politics” is a living and breathing creature. Once again.

Add this already heady mix to the soon-to-be-released Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Manjhi: The Mountain Man and the boat called Bihar may yet again have to brave it out in torrential downpour or tumble way in murky waters. Directed by Ketan Mehta (of Mangal Pandey: The Rising-fame), the film lashes out at former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi without any inhibition.


Let's make things clear at the outset itself. The film talks about a poor man Dashrath Manjhi from Gehlor village in Bihar. Dashrath has a task and it is to carve out a mountain to make a road — that’s his life’s story, his aim, his all — so that his village gets access to the neighbouring, resourceful village of Wazirganj.

His wife would be alive had she made it to the hospital in time. Manjhi learns about Indira Gandhi's rally from a reporter. Hope takes wings when the latter encourages Manjhi to seek her out and ask her to build a road to connect the two villages.

Cut to the rally day. Enter Indira Gandhi. With one hand she drapes her pallu around her and with the other she effortlessly holds the mic. A shrill, thin voice (which, apparently, was her trademark) rings through the loudspeakers: "Main kehti hoon gareebi hataao. Woh kehte hain Indira hataao." What follows is deafening silence and — worse still — a deafening uproar. That of the poor common man believing with all his heart that here, at last, is redemption.

She waves to her people, her janata. No points for guessing that it is her party's election symbol. And then, lo and behold, the stage from where she is addressing the poor comes crashing down. At lightning speed, Manjhi and other villagers rush forward to lift the crumbling structure on their shoulders. Yes, they save the mighty from falling.


The mighty will rule from their thrones and it’s the poor who shall be their palanquin bearers. With Indira now getting off the stage, Manjhi rushes to talk to her. Introduced by a reporter, he can finally put forth his humble request, a road for Gehlor. Indira remains mum. She hands him one of her garlands, gets a photo-op with him and leaves.

So, what happens? Manjhi's village, like our beautiful land, endures corruption. But there's no progress, still no sign of the road. The BDO and the local leaders fill their pockets with the grant sanctioned in Manjhi's name. And then strikes Emergency. The shining moment of power for the Iron Lady of India.

But the mountain man doesn’t lose heart. He travels all the way to Delhi, mind you, on foot, only to be lathicharged and mocked by the police at Rajpath.

There is a road in Gehlor now. Sadly though, it reached the village in 2012 — five years after Manjhi passed away and 30 years too late — after three decades of breaking down and trying to tame a mountain.

Rumour has it that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is all set to inaugurate an institution in Dashrath Manjhi's name. Now would be a good time to take Nitish's pro-Congress stand into account.


But wait. Did we hear it right? The Congress-inclined Nitish will now be party to something as anti-Indira as Manjhi: The Mountain Man?

The ball is now in the Congress' court. What are its options? Another Parliament logjam? Protests? Probably leaders asking Nitish to send this Manjhi packing, just like all the others.

Nah, they won't go to the Censor Board. Pahlaj Nihalani isn't interested. After all, it’s not sex and certainly isn’t Shah Rukh. So how will it sell?

(Translated from Hindi by Radhika Sharma.)

Last updated: September 29, 2016 | 09:46
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