Real story of a man who moved mountain gets a reel adaptation

Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui who carved a niche for himself in the tinsel town playing an IB officer in the Vidya Balan starrer “Kahani” has been roped in by veteran filmmaker Ketan Mehta to play the lead role in the biopic of “Mountain Man” Dashrath Manjhi.

Mehta will depict the life of Dashrath Manjhi, who moved mountain some two decades back. Barely 5 ft tall, Manjhi single-handedly carved out a 360-foot long, 25-foot high and 30-foot wide road by cutting a mountain for 22 years (from 1960 to 1982) near Gaya in Bihar. Marathi actor Radhika Apte, who featured in national award winning Bengali film “Antaheen” in 2009, will star opposite Siddiqui.

Mehta’s movie is a tribute to Manjhi, who for the sake of love for his wife, cut a road through a mountain. It all started some four decades ago when on a hot summer day Manjhi’s wife slipped off the rocks and hurt herself, while crossing the narrow pathway around the mountain.

In the process, the earthen pot in which she carried potable water for Manjhi broke and she returned empty-handed. The guilt-ridden helplessness was writ large on her face when she began crying. It was then that Manjhi, in his late 20s, realised that the mountain was coming in the way between thirst and water. “It has to be removed, come what may,” he told his inconsolable wife.

Born as an extremely poor Mushar, Manjhi sold his goat the very next day to purchase a chisel and hammer. He took a vow that he won’t sit idle till he had cut a path through the mountain of Gilhaur (in Gaya). Many ridiculed him. Some called him mad. Others were amazed. But neither praise nor criticism affected him.

After 22 years of untiring effort, he dug a pathway 360-feet-long and 30-feet-wide, thereby reducing the distance with the nearest town by 80 km.

But his victory was tinged with sadness. His wife, who had inspired him to take on the gigantic task, was no more. She had died of illness, as she could not be taken to the hospital on time. So overwhelmed was Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on knowing Manjhi’s feat that he got up from his chair and asked Manjhi to sit there when the septuagenarian visited him with a request to set up a hospital in the name of his wife in his village.

Manjhi, however, passed away in 2007. A chapter on his achievement has been included in Bihar school books. Mehta will be the first acclaimed film maker to portray Manjhi’s life story onscreen.

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