Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mohenjodaro, the movie. Lost Opportunity

I just viewed the trailer of the much anticipated movie 'Mohenjodaro', it may be too early to judge but a movie trailer is supposed to be the executive summary that captures the essence of the movie in 3 minutes or less. The movie trailer normally gives a glimpse of the story line and theme along with technical aspects like historical authenticity, dialog, cinematography, action sequences, music, location, grand set etc. Going by these parameters, I found the the movie trailer of Mohenjodaro disappointing.
The Indus-Saraswati civilisation is regarded as the cradle of Indian civilisation and a contemporary to other ancient civilisations of  the world then. The cultural, religious and civilisational impact and significance of  the Indus-Saraswati civilisation on India and the psyche of its people is beyond description or imagination. No one has yet grappled with the enormity of the subject in any form let alone re-imagining it on celluloid. The subject needs a lot of contemporary research and delicate handling as any attempt to imagine a past in movie form will have a very lasting impact especially since this is the first attempt to recreate our hoary past. Any wrong representation will set in stone peoples perceptions which will be very hard to erase, especially for the lay man. As a case in point, the patently false Aryan Invasion theory (AIT) has played havoc with peoples imagination and has taken many generations to debunk academically yet finds currency among the masses. Many research scholars spent more time trying to prove or disprove the AIT than actually making forward movement in researching on the Indus-Saraswati civilisation.

Some of the glaring mistakes I could immediately identify are as follows... 

1.  Mohenjodaro: The word in Sindhi means ‘Mound of the dead men’, the general environs in modern day Sindh is called by this name. Does one really think, people who were inhabiting the city 4500 years back or earlier called their city ‘Mound of the dead men’! This for me is the biggest failure of the movie. How could a movie be titled on a modern term to identify the region and the characters use term coined many thousands of years later to refer to the city. We have not been able to identify the name of city with its real name though there have been some theories and names proposed, the director could have might as well created a fictional name for the city whilst placing it in that Indus-Saraswati era.

2.  Time markers: The trailer starts with …before the British, before the Mughals, before Christ, before Buddha…. there was Mohenjodaro! Note the timeline markers, none of them native till we arrive at Buddha. No Mauryans, no Gupta, no Adi Shankara, no Kautilya, No Krishna or Ramayana. Ok the director wanted to be secular and liberal, then better still would have been ‘…during the time Pharaoh ruled Egypt…!’ Another failure is using BC as a time market, why do we measure our time in Biblical timescale, even western historians don’t refer to BC anymore, they calculate backwards from CE (Common Era) which means the director could have easily said 5000 years back in India. How enslaved and colonial is our film making communities mind set?

3.  Stone tools: In an interview to the press Ashutosh Gowarikar says, Mohenjodaro civilisation did not know metal and used only stone or flint weapons. He in fact has shot action scenes with stone and wooden weapons in the movie. I am amazed at this claim. A little bit of research would have showed that Mohenjodaro was bang in the middle of the Bronze Age as seen here below taken from Wikipedia.
Moreover arrow heads and axe heads have been found on the site besides high quality bronze figurines. To substantiate further I have enlisted the support of documentation from John Marshall, Director General of the ASI involved in the first excavation of the site.
 He clearly states, spear heads and axe head made of copper and bronze were found aplenty. The director should have done better to research these important facts before embarking on such a important project, a movie of a lifetime.

The lack of information about the period troubled Gowariker and he decided that whenever he would get a story to tell, it will be depicted in the 2500 BC-Mohenjo Daro. On the film's plot, he was quoted as saying, "While the plot will follow the discovery of Mohenjo-daro and the culture and the vibe of the ancient civilisation, it will largely centre on a love story.

4. Story line: From the brief glimpse of the story line available through the trailer, the movie does not appear to be very different from regular, run of the mill Bollywood fare - boy meets girl love story, with a possible amnesia or rebirth angle. The story involves a girl called Channi who is possibly the towns virgin goddess forbidden to fall in love or marry but inevitably falls in love with Sarman the blue eyed protagonist. The antagonist is the cities lord named Maham, possibly also the father of the girl. Maham incidentally sports a horned head gear similar to the imagery in the famed Pashupati seal. Did Ashutosh try to draw a parallel between Pashupatinath, Bhagwan Shiva and the antagonist Maham, cant put anything past these liberal secular types in Bollywood? Sarman finally dethrones the evil Maham in a typical Bollywood hero vs villain fight and all lived happily ever after. Some strange artistic freedoms has been taken such as gladiatorial combat, no where in the unearthed sites has one found any fighting arena. Ashutosh confesses that he could not have made the movie without a love story which also exposes the lack of creativity and the boring linear movie making in Bollywood.

5. Religion and Culture: Sticking to pseudo liberal and secular credentials of Bollywood movie industry, Ashutosh Gowarikar has developed the movie in a religious and cultural vacuum. From the movie it is well nay impossible to make out what culture the people belong to besides vaguely alluding to Animism. Giving Ashutosh the benefit of doubt we have to wait for the movie release to confirm if he is trying to hint at early Vedic period which was predominantly Animistic - worshipping the elements such as Agni, Vaayu, Varuna, Bhumi, Pashu, Vriksha etc.

For all the historical backdrop, the story could have easily been placed in modern day India or in any other continent. I fail to understand how this movie has put the Indus-Saraswati civilisation at the centre of the story, the ancient city seems to be incidental to the boring worn out love and song dance routine. With once in a life time opportunity to create a path breaking movie on the Indus-Saraswati civilisation and showcasing the legacy of ancient India the Indian movie Industry fails in creating a meaningful narrative that brings to fore the Vedic roots of India and reinforces a strong sense of identity to a country wracked by colonial and socialist ideological conflicts. The people of India should reject such sterile narratives that helps reinforce defunct and failed historical theories or worse provide nothing meaningful and educative.                                                     

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