The recent news of the biopic ‘Manjhi – The Mountain Man trailer’ is, in a way, a proletariat win- at least for the space in big screen.
The narrative on someone like Dashrath Manjhi, a poor labourer belonging to the weaker section of the class and caste based society of India is actually a positive sign for recognizing the hardship of the poor and the downtrodden. It also has a Northeast connection and it’s actually a sad one- Ashraf-ul-Haque. He played the role of the father of Dashrath Manjhi played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
The late talented actor from Assam died from a rare disorder called Myelodysplastic Syndrome on 17, February, 2015 in Mumbai and that hasn’t been easy for his family. Ashraf was a talented actor who was famous for his down-to-earth rugged looks. He hailed from Goalpara in Assam, and graduated from NSD. He starred in Deewar, Paan Singh Tomar, Fukrey, Company and the recently released movie The Lost Beharupiya. He was much loved and respected within the film fraternity and the theatre circle.
Anurag Kashyap, who also directed the Assamese actor in his critically-acclaimed Black Friday told Mirror, “He was one of my closest friends and we knew each other since our struggling days. From my TV show to short-films to features, I worked with him quite often as he was a terrific actor. I was aware of his illness and we knew that his health was fast deteriorating. We were all there for him and it’s truly tragic that he had to depart so soon. Our priority now is to take care of his 9-year-old son.”
Just like Premchand chronicles the life narratives of the socially weaker community in famous novels such as Godaan, the similar play of life-narratives is coming to the front in this docu-mercial movie by Ketan Mehta. The trailer looks quite promising too.
The hypocrisy of the Indian society is in the front, the sympathy for Manjhi’s wife’s death, the rejection of his willingness to create a road from the forbidden mountain and the final acceptance of Manjhi when he finally does succeed in giving the colours of reality to his dreams goes a long way in actually depicting the true faces of this society.
Actually, though intended for commercial profits, yet the treatment of the subject is nothing short of being positive and inspiring. Not that we didn’t know about Manjhi prior this trailer release, yet we can’t ignore the fact that most Indians, for that matter, are so habituated to the use of video graphic introductions that it’s a tell-tale understanding that very here people might be knowing about Manjhi from the print media.
After years of taunts and isolation from his own community, when Ashraf got his first fame those people were the ones who came running in hordes to congratulate him first.
The reason behind the name of “Mountain Man” is quite interesting but heart breaking as well and yet immensely inspiring. The man’s wife dies. She dies because he couldn’t afford a quick medical assistance. She dies because the nearest hospital was 70 km away. This tragic incident made Manjhi arrive at the idea of carving a path through the very same mountain. His wife Falguni Devi died in 1959 without easy access to medical assistance. And after working for 22 long years, day and night, single handedly, Manjhi shortened the travel distance between Atri and Wazirganj blocks of the Bihar town, Gaya, from 55 km to 15 km. The path is about 360 foot long and 25 foot deep. He worked from 1980 ending in 1982.
Manjhi died from gall bladder cancer on August 17, 2007, at the age of 73. When finally a movie based on his life was announced to him, Manjhi was on his deathbed. He put his thumb impression on the agreement to give away “exclusive rights” to make a film on his life. This ‘Mountain Man’ was also given a state funeral by the Government of Bihar.
Hope the movie will turn out to be a dedication for both the ‘Mountain Man’ Dashrath Manjhi and the deceased Assamese actor Ashraf-ul-Haque .Their “never say die” attitude for the love of work will continue to inspire us.
Many directors who met him were touched by his personality and his work. Here is what they said:
Ananath Mahadevan: “Ashraful played a key role of a Naxal in my film ‘Red Alert…’. One look at him, and I knew he would blend perfectly with the rugged realistic feel of the true-life story. He was quite a trouper. He roughed it out in the tough jungle terrain. Ashraf was an actor first and till the last. He was unaffected by the posturings of Bollywood. A complete natural. It’s really sad to see a promising career cut short so rudely.”
Mrig Lamba: “I had got him through the casting agent. Once I saw him I knew Ashraful was perfect to play the part of Smackiya. I tested numerous actors for the role but Ashraful just walked away with the role. I feel sad. It’s a loss for our cinema. Actors like him are absolutely rare but unfortunately like many talented actors in Mumbai he never got his dues in Bollywood.”
Abhinay Deo: “He was very professional and had a very realistic and natural approach to acting. He quickly understood what I required and adapted himself to the role and the kind of performance which he gave was perfect. I had no idea he was so unwell. It is very sad to lose someone from the film fraternity and that too someone I had so enjoyed working with. After ‘Delhi Belly’ I called him for a few ads. He was a thinking actor. He shall be missed.”
Tigmanshu Dhulia: “I am very very saddened to hear of Ashraful’s demise. He was from Assam. While shooting we constantly discussed Assam politics. He was a very good actor. I will always remember him as an actor who wanted it excel. Goodbye my friend, will miss you.”
Directed by Ketan Mehta, the movie is slated to be released on August 21.
Image Source: The Viewspaper