What happens when you combine gym-toned biceps, gold-tinged curls, muddy clothes and a vanquished crocodile? You get Hrithik Roshan in Mohenjo Daro.
For that is what happens in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s latest outing. The director whose film Lagaan was the last Bollywood film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, is back with a film set 4032 years ago and goes out of its way to show its hero as a God on earth.
The film received mixed reviews, the consensus aptly summed up by Huffington Post when it said that it is better than the trolls before the release, but not as good as it could have been, and earned $149,454.7 in its opening days – not bad when it comes to Bollywood films.
With an approximate budget of $17,187,290, the movie has to earn 45 crores INR ($6,725,461.5) in India and 15 crores INR ($2,241,820.5) overseas to at least recover its costs.
It remains to be seen how it fares, as the Akshay Kumar starter Rustom released on the same day and seems better poised for delivering a big hit, with its rendition of an extra-marital affair and a subsequent murder that changed the course of the law in India.
Mohenjo Daro tells the story of an indigo farmer Sarman from the nearby village of Armi who goes to the titular big city for trading indigo. There he falls in love with the beautiful Chaani, the daughter of a priest.
Problems arise when the affair comes to light, as Chaani is engaged to be married to Moonja, the unruly son of the city honcho Maham.
Yes, the plot mostly follows one of the most oft-beaten tracks in cinema, and Hrithik’s effort as an actor notwithstanding supposedly fails on many departments.
Debutante Pooja Hedge as Chaani has not impressed the critics. Nor has Arunodoy Singh as the bratty fiancé. Even A. R. Rahman, of all people, fails to create a general impression in the music department.
Another major let-down is the CGI, which has been hounding the film ever since its trailer showed Sarman fighting with a crocodile with unconvincing looks. Then there is the great flood towards the end, which in spite of being well-intended, is soddy owing to the effects.
In fact, as one critic points out, it is in bits and pieces like the flood sequence that the story has its moments of wonder. While having general, often unforgivable historical inaccuracies, Gowarikar does know to use his history book at the end of the day.
This mixed use of history, though, is again difficult to explain, because the director is supposed to have worked on the script for three years and even consulted archaeologists.
There are some good bits. There is the image of the unicorn in the seal given to Sarman, which was actually found on the site during the excavation, and there is the linking of Maham’s dam with the flood threatening to destroy the city, in the end, using one of the actual historical conjectures for the disappearance of the place from memory.
As Gowarikar tells Reuters, he likes telling stories which has not been told, and this obscure civilization offered him the perfect chance to do so.
There are the average bits. Sarman as the socialist hero, who like Gowarikar’s other socialist heroes fights a corrupt leader who is selling gold in return for weapons of war, who is popular among the people, and who tries to leads the common man to safety at the end.
Then there are the bad bits. The dresses were worn by the women who are stitched and even printed, the occasional bad acting, the very 21st century Bollywood dance moves, the impossibly high head-dress worn by Pooja Hedge, and Pooja Hedge herself.