'Nawaz has given an incredible performance'

Ketan Mehta’s latest venture Manjhi, the Mountain Man has already created a buzz before its release. The movie is based on the real story of Dasarath Manjhi, a labourer from a village in Bihar, who broke a mountain to carve a path through it, over a period of 22 years.

Mehta tells Metrolife how he hit on the idea of making this movie.

“The movie was an instant decision for me. The moment I came across this news in 2007, at the time of Manjhi’s death, my first reaction was ‘disbelief’. How could anyone even think of doing something like this? I needed to check it out and so with a team of researchers, I went to the village.

When we reached, there was a sheer sense of ‘aww’ that hit us. On the one hand, there was intense love and passion and on the other, intense resolve and determination to the extent of madness. I felt that the story had to be shared with as many people as possible because in these cynical times, this is what India needs more than anything else.”

Nawazuddin Siddique is playing the biographical role starring opposite Radhika Apte. Mehta explains why Siddique is the perfect man to play Manjhi.

“The story which I was going to present needed what we call the ‘Richard of the Year’ and had to be grounded, had to have an earthy feel, intensity, and of course the body type. And Nawaz’s body is like Manjhi’s. He’s short, lean and has blazing eyes. Which Bollywood actor has that kind of combination? I think Nawaz is also a Mountain Man. He has broken the Bollywood mountain and carved out a path from it. Also, the moment Nawaz heard the story, he was on fire and it is the biggest boon that a film director could ever get. Nawaz has given the most incredible performance of his life and brought the character to life,” Mehta says effusively.

“Aise pagalpan ki kahani ko aap ek movie me dikhana chahte ho, toh kahin na kahin aap bhi pagal ho,” he says.

On the challenges he and his team faced after launching the Manjhi project and completing the filming of the movie, Mehta says, “The kind of industry we are in, making a movie like Manjhi… was difficult. Raising the money was also a big task. Also, Nawazuddin and Radhika were not stars at that point of time. The third challenge I faced was on the location. We shot the movie on the same mountain which Dasarath Manjhi broke, because I believe that the mountain is as much a character of the story as others. There is no facility, no infrastructure in that area. The entire unit had a tough time while shooting for the movie. We stayed at Bodh Gaya, which is one-and-a-half hours away from the place. We used to wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning, travel to the location, climb the mountain for an hour and then start shooting.”

According to Mehta, Manjhi is a human story. It is a global film, and not just an Indian film. An ordinary man doing extraordinary things, the story inspires humanity as a whole.

“I believe it is the greatest monument love has ever created. Shah Jahan took 22 years to create the Taj Mahal with the help of an army of slaves and soldiers. But Manjhi was a one-man army,” says the celebrated director.

Untouched by the buzz his recent offering has created, Mehta is already on to his next project which is based on the life of Rani of Jhansi. And the role will be portrayed by none other than Bollywood’s ‘Queen’, Kangana Ranaut.

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