The Bollywood movie Manjhi- the mountain man is based on a true story and is worth watching for its innate realistic, sombre and nuanced portrayal of the original storyline . A story that is veritably emblematic of sheer grit, determination, super human resolution, iron will, unflinching faith and confidence to fulfill even the most herculean task despite all odds, encompassing physical feebleness, mental enervation, persistent vilification, bickering and social stigmatisation.
A task that is onerous enough to be a synonym of anything that epitomises superhuman hard work, quintessential toil which is Sisyphean in the the hindi vernacular ( Pahad todna- breaking a mountain). But in the end, after years of indefatigable toil, the impossible is transcended to pave way for the possible owing to the astounding ability and formidable will to move on unperturbed by travails and tribulations of gargantuan magnitude.
Backdrop of the starting of the story is Bihar of 1950s when unabashed casteism and oppression of the downtrodden was a social and cultural norm perpetuated by the system of feudalism which worked in cahoots with the the so called democratic government apparatus which only paid lip service to grave issues like despicable casteism and horrific brutality perpetrated on the most vulnerable section of the society by devilish feudal landlords and their henchmen. A society that was, and is being till today victimised by the powerful ruling elite which devours the poor.
Plunder, killings, arson, horrific rapes and amputations for transgressing the social diktats of these feudal lords is a social reality in the vast swathes of land in the Indian hinterlands which are in the thralldom of these feudals who commit even the most ghastly and abhorrent crimes with full impunity and in the broad daylight, sometimes in connivance with local authorities and mostly under the auspices of casteist self seeking politicians.
The protagonist in this story is a simple and abjectly poor toiler named Dashrath Manjhi whose father like other lower caste villagers is routinely beaten and harassed by the village strongman who enjoys political clout and wields power. They lead a life devoid of any hope and even a slight semblance of dignity.
A wretched hamlet of shanty ramshackle's which is sequestered from rest of the state due to an imposing mountain which surrounds it. Consequently, the village is a personal fiefdom of the venal and savagely atrocious landlord.
The protagonist escapes from impending bonded labour and runs off to a nearby city to work in the coal mines.. He returns to his desolate village after 7 years and is grieved and surprised at the same time to see that palpably nothing has changed even in these years.
He marries a girl with whom he is smitten and it later transpires that she was the same girl who was betrothed with him in childhood. After marriage he works as a labourer and as a toiler, sporadically voicing against the injustice of the debauched village feudal and at times dauntlessly confronting them. Despite leading a wretched existence, his conjugal life is of vivid charm, happiness, love and a optimistic yearning for a better life in a bucolic town.
His life withers and everything falls apart when one day his beloved wife slips from the precipice while trying to cross the mountain and dies.
Realistic David decides to wrestle with the metaphorical Goliath.
Nawazudin Siddiqui plays the role of the protagonist Dashrath Manjhi and his synchronized acting is a feat to watch. His performance is impeccable, earthly and original without a tincture of any embellishing.