The tragedy of a nation and Mohandas movie review
It’s a story that takes place all over India. Poor people deprived of their rights. Recently in Uttar Pradesh a young mechanic from Sitapur unearthed a scam when he decided to check why his father’s old age pension had not arrived. Under the old age pension scheme, the Department of Social Welfare is to pay Rs 300 per month to the poor who are over 65 years of age. Rs 700 crore has been set aside for this scheme yearly, but now it has been discovered that almost a lakh of the beneficiaries are not true beneficiaries at all. Villages like Gorakhpur, Kaushambi, Lakhimpur Kheri, Mirzapur and Mahoba are also victims of this scam. In a belated move, the state government is now physically checking the lists in all villages.
The misuse of government funds happens all over India ofcourse. Dedicated chief ministers like Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy (who died in a helicopter crash a few days ago) like to make surprise checks in villages to ensure that the monies set aside for the poor are actually reaching them. Most states don’t seem to care. We know what happened in Maharashtra. Very little of the crores set aside for the relief of farmers actually reached them. Recently, social activist and journalist Vilas Wankhede put in an RTI application and discovered what appears to be a huge scam relating to relief schemes for farmers who committed suicide in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region. And he has accused a six-time former Member of Parliament (MP), relatives of a sitting Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and several former MLAs.
This is the story of India. Unknown heroes like the anonymous young mechanic and Wankhede bring us hope. As I had mentioned in a comment a few posts earlier, India has its heroes. They challenge the system despite the fact that their lives could be endangered. And it is their work that gives others courage. For example, after the young mechanic exposed the scam in the pension scheme, “people now come with lists of the beneficiaries, and demand a probe.”
And that is what the film Mohandas – A Man Lost In His Own Nation touches upon. It is a movie which is dedicated to whistleblowers like Manjunath Shanmugam, and Satyendra Dubey who blew the lid of scams which involved crores of rupees and as a result had to pay with their lives. A list of those who defied the system is here. Given in a comment on this blog by Vikram. However, this movie is not about a whistle blower per se, and nor is it about Mohandas Gandhi, the father of our nation, although it does tell us about a poor lawyer who decides to help the protagonist Mohandas despite threats to his life.
The protagonist in this movie is a poor naive village boy called Mohandas whose identity is stolen by another. Mohandas is Gandhiji’s common man and hence the name. The villain conspirators in the movie take the trouble to steal Mohandas’ identity so that they can benefit by crores of rupees. Getting into the details of this would reveal the plot and that can’t be done as suspense is an important element in the movie.
The movie is based on a short story by Uday Prakash and the story is the best thing about the movie. It is a powerful heart rending story with twists and turns that leaves you praying for a happy ending. Another great thing about this movie is its setting. Most of the story takes place in a village called Anuppur in Madhya Pradesh, and it was shot in a real village in Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh.
The cinematography is excellent, and why shouldn’t it be. It is none other than the cinematographer of Satya fame Mazhar Kamran, who is behind the camera. And he is the director as well, this being his debut film as director. He has done a great job as a director. The film moves fairly fast and suspense is maintained throughout. Characters are developed well, and are not stereotypes. There are no glamorous faces, only real faces and real people.
However, I think Kamran made a mistake in casting Nakul Vaid as Mohandas. Nakul Vaid looks like a city bred yuppie with his plump and rosy cheeks and the casual chic that he displays in his posture and style. By no stretch of the imagination could he pass off for a villager, not even in fancy dress. That is all it seemed anyway. A city man dressed up as a villager. The couple chosen as his parents are so perfect, it makes Vaid all the more unreal in this role. Wrong casting makes it difficult to empathise with the character. Throughout the movie I got a feeling that Nakul Vaid is not really Mohandas, but simply an actor pulled in to play his part. A play within a play.
The other main character in the movie is the reporter Meghna, played by Sonali Kulkarni. She is better for her role, although not perfect. It was difficult to believe that her character was a top notch reporter in a news channel as she came across more as a fresher with 2-3 years of experience. Not a thing one would complain about in a mainstream movie. But this is supposed to be a “real” movie so the expectations are higher.
Overall the acting of all the people in this movie was average and at times stilted and stiff. Sonali’s scenes with her colleagues seemed artificial and it is here that the inexperience of the director shows.
If one has to sum up, this is a serious thought provoking film. As a judge in the movie laments, goondas and mobsters have penetrated all democratic institutions in this country, and it has made a mockery of our democracy. This is the main message of the movie and while it may sound cynical to some, it does seem to be the truth. The movie gives out little hope because it tells us that though one can move a few mountains at the ground level because of the efforts of a few people, the real problem lies at the top.
From the real life examples I gave at the beginning of this post, it is clear that unless there is political will to root out the corruption, nothing will change in this country.
(Photo credits: the first photo is from bollywoodadda.com and the other is from india-server.com)