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An uproar of protest has broken out in the Gehlaur village of Bihar where once lived the legendary ‘Mountain Man’ Dashrath Manjhi who hand-chiseled a road through a rocky mountain to connect his inaccessible village to the nearest town.
Manjhi’s family and the villagers claim that they were given the impression that the second season of Aamir Khan’s serial on social reform ‘Satyamev Jayate’ would kick-start with an episode in the mythical Mountain Man, Manjhi.
Says a villager, “Aamir Khan visited us on February 25 and told us that the first episode of his serial was dedicated to Dashrath Manjhi. We were all glued to the television in the community hall in our village at 10 am. We were sorely disappointed when the episode aired was about something else. Why did he visit us with the promise that the episode would be about our village hero.”
When confronted by the villagers’ protests, Uday Shankar, the CEO Of Star India says, “There was never any plan of an episode on Dashrath Manjhi this season. We ended Season 1 of ‘Satyamev Jayate’ with an episode on Manjhi. And before we commenced the new season felt it would be a good idea to pay a tribute to his memory and the triumph of the human spirit that he signifies. Hence Aamir’s trip to Gelhaur.”
In the meanwhile Dashrath Manjhi’s fellow-villagers have more reason to feel disappointed. The film on Manjhi’s life ‘Mountain Man’ directed by Ketan Mehta, lies unsold and unreleased many months after completion, with no indication or hope of a release in the near future.
Mehta it might be recalled, had wangled the privilege of shooting a film on Dashrath Manjhi’s inspirational tale from two other filmmakers, Neeraj Pathak and Manish Jha after fighting arduous legal battles with Pathak and with Manjhi’s family members.
With much fanfare the very talented Nawazuddin Siddiqui was signed to play Manjhi. The actor spent months in Manjhi’s native village in Gaya living out Manjhi’s heroic endeavour.
When asked about the status of ‘Mountain Man’, Nawaz said, “I am not sure about what is happening with the film. We’ve completed the shooting. You will have to have ask Ketan Mehta when the film is releasing.”
While Ketan Mehta refused to respond to the release query, he did laud Aamir Khan for visiting Dashrath Manjhi’s family. Mehta and Khan had parted under unamicable circumstances after the troubled shooting of ‘Mangal Pandey’.
‘Mountain Man’ is Mehta’s fourth bio-pic after ‘Sardar’ (based on the life and politics of Sardar Patel with Paresh Rawal in the title role), ‘Mangal Pandey: The Rising’ (about the soldier behind the Indian Mutiny of 1857) and ‘Rang Rasiya’ (chronicling the life and love of the pioneer of calendar-art Raja Ravi Varma).
‘Rang Rasiya’ remains unreleased.