Ashutosh Gowariker is evolving as the leading period film director in Bollywood. After Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar, his Hrithik Roshan, Pooja Hegde-starrer Mohenjo Daro is ready for release. It’s a challenge to make such films as it requires a lot of research, which takes time. But time and research should not be a problem for Gowariker. Mohenjo Daro is his eighth film in 23 years.
His directorial debut was Pehla Nasha in 1993. Deepak Tijori, Raveena Tandon and Puja Bhatt-starrer did not do well. Regular Bollywood themes have not worked for Gowariker; he thrives on ‘the other genre’ of filmmaking.
Trailer of Mohenjo Daro looks too good for a Bollywood flick. Its only problem could perhaps be that it talks about history. The trailer begins with a layout of town-planning followed by a seal, actually recovered from Mohenjo-daro, which was one of the largest cities in the world some 4,000 years ago. Along with Harappa (in Pakistan), Dhaulavira (Gujarat) and Rakhigarhi (Haryana), Mohenjo-daro formed an urban framework of what we know as the Indus Valley Civilization.
Besides the seal, the trailer of Mohenjo Daro shows the Great Bath of the ancient city. It has been constructed on the sets the way it might originally have been. The director seems to have studied the evidence from excavation very minutely here.
Waterways were the highways during the Indus Valley period, Hrithik Roshan is shown coming to Mohenjo-daro on a fleet of boats. The director is again right on the money. But, the trailer shows that Gowariker has taken much artistic liberty in reconstructing the city and people of Mohenjo-daro. The discrepancy begins with the name Mohenjo Daro itself.
Mohenjo-daro was the name given by the East India Company’s engineers in 1856 when they were laying rail lines between Karachi and Lahore. The ruins of the cities provided ballast for the rail tracks. Local people had been using the bricks produced some four thousand years ago in building their homes in the 19th century. Locally, Mohenjo-daro means the city of dead. No living city would name itself as such. Everyone in the film calls it by this name.
Walls of the cities shown in the trailer are too massive and high for the evidence, the historians have found during excavations. The elite portion of the city was built on a raised platform, which was certainly not a walled city.
Hrithik Roshan is wearing a turban and, his dress resembles 20th century clothing more than that of what people wore in the ancient Mohenjo-daro wore. It is true that the Indus people were the first to use cotton as a fabric but large scale production of cloth seems improbable. Also, the technique of stitching arrived in India 2.5 millennia later the least. The male figurines recovered from Mohenjo-daro have a cloth draped around them and not wearing dresses the way we do now or Hrithik does in the film.
Men and women of Mohenjo-daro wore jewellery. But, gold jewellery has not been found. Pooja Hegde is wearing gold. Her dressing is also exquisite, more to soothe our perception about some distant past than to suit the evidence collected from Mohenjo-daro or its contemporary Indian cities.
Kabir Bedi plays the ruler of the city and he is wearing a headgear, which our TV serials and childhood cartoons symbolised with demons. Such headgears were probably not used in Mohenjo-daro. People of Mohenjo-daro were thought to be peace-loving as instruments of warfare have not been found. The kind of metallic weapons used in the film was certainly not available then. Use of horse as utility or war animal is not proven from evidence. But, Gowariker fits them to suit our perception of olden days’ practice.
The Indus script has not been deciphered yet and historians have no idea which language people of the time spoke. So, we don’t know who actually ruled over those massive cities. The uniformity in town planning, drainage system, pottery style and housing pattern across several cities indicate towards a central rule. But, who ruled them is not clear. Kabir Bedi is playing a dictator but historians’ guess is that a guild of merchants might have ruled over those cities.
History apart, the trailer of Mohenjo Daro is immaculate. Hrithik is used to playing a superhero. He seems to be carrying it out nicely in Mohenjo Daro, but minus Rakesh Roshan effect this time. Mohenjo Daro should be an interesting watch.
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