Recreating a period from over 4000 years ago on cinema can be both a challenge and an opportunity. Visually, you have a free rein. Costume, sets, language, music – you can create your own universe. It can be liberating.
Ashutosh Gowariker’s period drama is high on ambition but falls considerably short of achieving it. You can see the effort here. Creating the city of Mohenjo Daro, language inflections, costume design – there is a lot that you can see going on in the film.
But the output is not that impressive. Poor acting and a clichéd storyline defeat the film. Debutant Pooja Hegde, Kabir Bedi and Arunodaya Singh all struggle to make a convincing act of their characters. Hrithik tries hard. His sincerity is more often than not defeated by weak dialogue writing. The biggest culprit is definitely the writing. The story is a hack job, a revenge saga with little nuance or innovation. There is not one interesting plot setup, twist, surprise or revelation.
In the director’s previous films, there have been moments that were elevating and memorable. Akbar dancing with the whirling dervishes to end their prayer, or the revelation of the fact that he could not read, were unexpected and brilliant in execution. Swades’s Thomas Edison moment when Shah Rukh creates light was superbly shot and edited, and the craft in that sequence was the difference between it being inspiring and it looking silly on screen. Mohenjo Daro misses moments like these. It lacks freshness and innocence, enthusiasm and poetry. It is a jaded effort, and does no one good for all the input that would have gone in creating it.
Hindi, Period, Drama, Color