Manjhi The Mountain Man.

Jim's Manjhi

On August 15, 2015, my blogger friend Jim posted this image on his facebook wall and we exchanged these comments

Jim: “Ramana, thought that you might like this story.”

I: “He is quite a hero here Jim. A biopic has been produced with a very popular film actor depicting his story.”

Jim: “Thought he might be inspiring. Have you written post on him?”

I: “No Jim. What I will do is to see the film and then write a review of the film.

And as promised to Jim, here is my review of the film which I saw yesterday.
Manjhi poster

Three highly talented people come together to produce a masterpiece of a film based on a true story but to make it appeal to the average Indian film goer adding some mirch masala. Incidentally, one of the three is Ketan Mehta who has actually directed a highly acclaimed film called Mirch Masala! The true story is embellished with some cruelty of the inter caste genre, atrocities against the poor and the marginal, corrupt politicians and babus, but all of these present a realistic background to a remarkable story of one individual’s remarkable achievement.

While Ketan Mehta has written and produced the film, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Manjhi and Radhika Apte as his wife and inspiration have performed so well that I am yet to recover from their powerful impression on me. The tight editing and excellent photography brings rural Bihar alive and the use of the local dialect is charming and very effective. While I saw a Hindi version, I am told that a version with English subtitles has also been released.


Better research could have saved the producers some embarrassment. Indira Gandhi no doubt to add some comedy, is shown promoting her Hand Symbol for elections when during the period that this incident happens, the INC had not come up with the symbol. Actually, it would have been better comedy, if that was the intention, to show INC’s Emergency time symbol of the cow and calf which has always represented the INC from her time, first with her and Sanjay Gandhi as cow and calf and now with Sonia and Rahul depicting the same!


It is a moving film that leaves the viewer with awe and respect for the determined man and the two plus hours in the theater goes by in a flash.  I recommend it highly to discerning viewers with a full[rating=6] rating.

The Way Things Were.


A little background before I comment on the book.

We lived in Delhi on two stretches. The first time was in 1968/69 when we were newly married and enjoyed Delhi as a more or less honeymoon location. The second time was between 1980 and 1983 when we became residents and made a number of friends who till today remain friends. This book revolves around tumultuous periods that Delhi as well the rest of the country saw and to which I was an adult witness. I have personal knowledge of people who suffered because of the Punjab problem, the immediate aftermath of the Indira Gandhi assassination, now more or less acknowledged as a pogrom against the Sikhs, and the Babri Masjid destruction. The links will give you some idea of the problems, but I was part of the generation that was impacted one way or the other by all three instances of insanity in India.  I am among those convinced that the anti Sikh riots were orchestrated by the Indian National Congress and you don’t need go too far to justify it when you consider what Rajeev Gandhi said about it – “When a big tree falls, the ground shakes.”

My personal aversion to the Indian National Congress as a political party started with the State of Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi when I was personally exposed to the excesses of the times and this was only strengthened further during our second Delhi stint when I used to visit the Punjab and also had many Sikh friends and what the INC did to create the problem and how it tried to manage the aftermath.

Aatish Taseer, the author of this book comes with a cross cultural background. His mother, an Indian Sikh is a well known author/writer/columnist whose writings I follow religiously and his father a dashing Pakistani Muslim who was assassinated for defending Christians against the brutal anti blasphemy laws of Pakistan. Aatish is too young to have personally been able to experience the mood of the times that this book covers but he has obviously spent a lot of time interviewing people who had and what he brings out in this magnificently written book is something that I can fully relate to. That I am also a keen student of Sanskrit helps as quite a bit of Sanskrit features in the story.

The characters come alive and I personally know or know of people exactly like those portrayed in the book and so the characterisation is accurate and very identifiable with. The story grips one and at least for me, it was a not-put-downable reading experience.

As icing on the cake, while reading the book, I remembered some old Sikh friends in Delhi and contacted them using modern systems to locate and contact them, to our mutual delight with every intention of staying in touch in the future.

Two gems to arouse your curiosity. The first one slightly modified.

“She is a pragmatist nevertheless. What is right in her eyes – what is moral, even – is simply what is, not what should be.”

And the second, almost immediately following the above quote in the book, “…..stupidity, I’m sure you will agree, is not an absolute value, but a deficit.”

“A deficit?”

“Yes, the gap between what one is fit to be doing and what one, in fact, does.”

A book worth every rupee spent on it and one that I give[rating=6].