Never judge a book by its cover—is a lesson that has served most of us well in life. So, even when the trailer of Ashutosh Gowariker's much-awaited magnum opus Mohenjo Daro nipped all my hopes in the bud, I assured myself that the film itself would reaffirm my faith in the Hrithik Roshan-Gowariker combine.
After all, eight years ago, the ace director had us rooting for (and drooling over) Hrithik in Jodhaa Akbar, where he essayed the role of the Mughal emperor with elan. And it was not just the rich opulence of the Mughal, which was brilliantly captured on-screen, that bowled us over. The songs by the maestro, A.R. Rahman, and the sizzling chemistry between Hrithik and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan complemented the film well.
Mohenjo Daro is also a period drama like Gowariker's blockbuster Lagaan and the forgettable Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey. Sarman (Hrithik), an indigo farmer from Amri village in the Indus Valley, wants to visit the nearby Mohenjo Daro, the city of his dreams (literally). However, his uncle Durjan (Nitish Bhardwaj of Krishna fame from Mahabharat) is reluctant to let him go there because of his mysterious connection with the city. (Bahubali, anyone?)
But the hero manages to reach the city, which is ruled by an evil chief Maham (Kabir Bedi) and rubs his equally-evil son Moonja (Arunoday Singh) the wrong way. And as fate usually would have it, Sarman falls in love with Chaani (Pooja Hegde), the priest's daughter. From thereon, it is the good versus evil revenge drama, with the leading lady flitting in and out of the screen with a panache on her head (no, she is not the daughter of a tribal chieftain), painted lips, loosely curled hair and exquisitely designed wear, meticulously designed by April Ferry and Neeta Lulla.
History took a backseat in Jodhaa Akbar, too, but not like it does in Mohenjo Daro. The name itself is a misnomer. Mohenjo-daro literally translates to 'mound of dead', and it is well known that the city was named so after it was discovered in 1920s (who, in his right mind, would call his own city that?). History takes a beating throughout the film—be it the 'costumes' of the villagers or the dialect spoken, or the white Arabian horses or the fair-skinned inhabitants. And the less said about the choreography in the song-and-dance sequences, the better.
Even if you close your eyes to the historical inaccuracies—as is the norm with period dramas in Bollywood—citing cinematic liberties, the lack of an engaging storyline hits the film where it hurts the most. A run-of-the-mill revenge-love affair that could have taken place anywhere in the world in any era.
If Gowariker was trying to cash in on the Mohenjo-daro mystery, he should have focused more on research and definitely invested more effort on visual effects—the 'flying' crocodile attack in the beginning of the film and the flood at the end left a lot to be desired.
Hrithik is intense, as usual, but it is almost impossible to hide his Greek god looks and his sinewy torso—not that he was making any attempt to do so! Sarman reminds one of Vijay of Agneepath. And Mr Twinkle Toes gets to showcase his dancing skills, too. His Gladiator-esque fight against 'Bakar' and 'Zokaar' is one of the few highlights of the film.
Pooja, though gorgeous, lacks the gravitas to portray the Chosen One. Bedi and Arunoday look menacing at times but fail to sustain it through the 180-minute journey.
One of the biggest letdowns in the film has to be Rahman's music. It might be because of the sky-high expectations from the Oscar-winning composer, but none of the songs, except maybe Tu Hai, make an impact.
Film: Mohenjo Daro
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Pooja Hegde, Kabir Bedi, Arunoday Singh