Mohenjo Daro movie cast: Hrithik Roshan, Pooja Hegde, Kabir Bedi, Arunoday Singh, Nitish Bardwaj, Manish Chaudhary
Mohenjo Daro movie director: Ashutosh Gowariker
If you had to recreate an ancient civilisation, what would you do? If you are Ashutosh Gowariker, and have had lots of experience in excavating the past (Lagaan, Jodhaa Akbar), you would scale it up. Instead of a few hundred years, you would go back a couple of thousands, ditching the merely old for the seriously antique.
Mohenjo Daro, set in Mohenjo-daro of the Indus Valley civilisation, is bigger but certainly not better than these two Gowariker’s earlier outings. The sepia tone of the earth and the dwellings is balanced by an array of costumery: everyone looks like they have been handed out unstructured earth-toned garments, which follow the latest fashion du jour. And lest you thought they were not accessorised to the hilt in 2016 BC, perish it: the villainous chief wears a headgear of horns (the happily hamming Kabir Bedi, who carries it off with a raffish air) to an alarmingly tall crown of what looks like feathers, coins and shells sported by the leading lady (the debutant Pooja Hegde, who looks much better without, and may fare better in her next).
In between is leading man Hrithik Roshan as poor indigo farmer Sarman, a resident of village Samri of the Sindh province, who has set his heart on going to neighbouring big town Mohenjo-daro. That is where, he is convinced, lie his fate and fortune, and an animal with one horn.
Right from the build-up, featuring what is meant to be a thrilling boat ride and a fight with a fake-looking crocodile, all the better to show off Hrithik’s rippling chest and ripping valour, Mohenjo Daro is a plod, and a heavily borrowed one to boot: the entry into a forbidden town (which strongly reminds us of Baahubali), the romance with a pretty stranger, the rivalry with a muscle-bound fellow, the unravelling of dark secrets, the saving of a town from a beastly ruler—we’ve seen so many versions of it before.
It beats me how so much time and effort can be spent on creating something meant to be jaw-dropping, but which leaves you sighing at the sheer waste of it all. Just when you think the plot is shifting just a fraction, out pops yet another item number, complete with whirling dervishes (remember Jodhaa Akbar?) and belly dancers: how can you have a Hrithik film without getting him on the floor, even if it is daubed in mud?
In Lagaan, there were the evil Brits who wanted more tax from the poor ‘gaon-waalon’. In Mohenjo Daro too, along comes the demand for more ‘kar-vasooli’. Gowariker also filches from the many Hollywood epics which dump their heroes into an arena and have them fight for their lives: Hrithik faces off with two iron-chested cannibals (Bedi terms them, helpfully, ‘narbhakshi’) who grunt and growl.
And just in case we were missing something, Sarman does a Noah, launches a massive rescue op, and saves scores of humans and animals, to swelling background music. By then, we’re so exhausted that we let the waters of Sindhu Ma float over us, and wait for things to get over.
Watch: Mohenjo Daro Audience Review
Hrithik, as attractively tousle-haired as he’s been and weathering well, is in practically every frame and you can see him working it hard. But this one is a lost cause: can someone dig up a better comeback for him?