The much Awaited Trailer of Mohenjodaro is out and it could’ve been a whole lot better. It’s been almost a week since the release of the 3 minutes 1 second long trailer starring Hrithik Roshan and Pooja Hegde, and it hasn’t failed to raise eyebrows in this interim – owing to the liberties it has taken with historical accuracy in the movie. Which wouldn’t be entirely unexpected. Period movies such as Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar- both made by Gowarikar himself might have enjoyed popularity in the past but have often suffered from a lack of historical fidelity.
Mohenjodaro- or at least the glimpses we have seen from its trailer seems to be little different.
1. What’s in a Name? Well, Everything
First the most controversial and weakest point – the name of the movie itself. As has been described on Twitter umpteen times in the past week, the name ‘Mohenjodaro’ itself roughly translates to ‘Mound of the Dead’, and was simply a tag given to the region during excavations in the 1920s. While no one is sure what the Harappan civilization called itself, Iravatham Mahadevan in his paper ‘Akam and Puram: The ‘Address’ Signs of the Indus Script’ has opined that the city of Mohenjodaro might’ve been known to contemporaries as ‘Kukkutarma’ or ‘City of Cockerels’. At any rate, it is doubtful that the inhabitants of the place would’ve been pleased to have a name as morbid as ‘City of the Dead’ associated with themselves.
2. Atleast Get the Dates Right
2016 BC. The date itself. That is fairly debatable as well. Apart from anthropological artefacts such as pottery and remnants of animals, there is sufficient geological evidence for us to trace the growth and decline of the Harappan Civilization. The most recent evidence from a team led by Prof Anindya Sarkar of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, IIT Kharagpur, suggests that the Civilization extended from Early farming communities i.e roughly 6000 BC to 4500 BC, followed by an early urbanized culture through 3000 BC- and the late urbanized culture till its mysterious end around 2000 BC. At 2016 BC, Gowarikar’s Mohenjodaro would’ve been a depopulated, dying settlement that would hardly be lasting another hundred years and not the thickly populated metropolis shown in the trailer.
3. Depiction of Harappan Fashion
The costumes used in the movie especially that of Pooja Hegde. I’ve read that they’ve based her costume on the Mother Goddess figure. Well, they haven’t. Google ‘Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra’. Enough said. This is especially lamentable because we have absolutely no lack of female figurines from the Harappan Civilization. And while defenders of Gowarikar might claim that we do not have totally accurate data from the time, it can be safely said that the Oscars pose didn’t exist in Bronze Age India- nor did sequins, glass set pieces nor the faux – Egyptian themed clothes flaunted by Hegde.
4. Representation of the City Itself
The City depicted in the movie. The overhead shots look suspiciously like Jerusalem from Kingdom of Heaven. And they don’t look like a real city. A Bronze Age City without urban sprawl, riverine harbours, irrigation systems, boom chains? Impossible. It is in such countless minor problems that immersion can be lost in a period piece. Gladiatorial pit – fights, torches burning in dark enclosed rooms, ragged battered clothing worn by EVERYONE might serve to enhance dramatic effect but are not only ahistorical, but also plain ridiculous. The shot of Hrithik bargaining over Lapis Lauzi does demonstrate an attempt at creating a period environment but also points to extremely shoddy execution. It is very unlikely that a young indigo farmer could’ve bargained for gems in an open market, no less. And it is also extremely unlikely that these gems aren’t being referred to along with any unit of measurement. ‘Four Lapis Lauzi’ is as silly as ‘Ten Gold’.
5. The Real Harappan World Would Be Very Different
And finally, we come to the most subtle of problems – the depiction of the Harappan world. Gowarikar’s Mohenjodaro is a sandy dust bowl without a hint of green. The real Harappan India was a time we can scarcely imagine now – the world was greener, wetter, warmer. Vast now-vanished rivers snaked their way across the deserts of the Indian Subcontinent and the Iranian plateaus. Elephants were found as north as the river Syr Darya and the Mediterranean Sea. Water covered vast areas in Gujarat and Sindh- around which the mighty ports of the Harappan civilization conducted commerce with the outside World. This green, lush land has little to do with Mohenjodaro’s desert wasteland.
What makes such a situation lamentable is that very little would suffice to improve the movie in terms of historical fidelity. We have to think of this in terms of how people might’ve lived- instead of just thinking of them as walking, talking characters from a history book. Instead from the few scenes we did see in the trailer, Mohenjodaro’s citizens seem to have no concept of furniture, no idea of cleanliness, and an aversion to plant life in general.
Mohenjodaro does get certain things right though. I have little idea whether these were intentional or they just sneaked into it but credit must be given:-
1. The Horses
Unlike what modern pop history in India is fond of peddling, the Harappan civilization did have horses of a sort. They were small beasts, not strong enough to carry adult humans but they did exist. Unfortunately, they’re also extinct. The only options were to use modern horses or CGI. Gowarikar can be hardly be blamed for cost-cutting, unless he is planning cavalry charges, GoT style.
2. Ignoring the Nonsense
Ignoring the nonsense about Aryan-Dravidian controversy. There is little proof of any such civilizational or cultural split despite all the alleged ‘genetic’ and ‘linguistic’ studies.
Also, we must keep in mind that these are only the primary observations form a very superficial viewing of a 3 minute trailer. Commenting on aspects such as the social organization in the movie, the weaponry used or even how the characters interact with each other- can’t be commented upon without viewing the movie itself.
August 15th can’t come soon enough.
About the Movie: Mohenjodaro – Hrithik’s second historical feature collaboration with Ashutosh Gowarikar after Jodhaa Akbar is hitting the screens on Independence Day when it will be going up against the Akshay Kumar starrer Rustom.
[Contributed by: Rohit Patnaik]