Tag Archives: Mohenjo Daro

Banks Of An Ancient River

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The enigma of Mohenjo Daro, the largest site attributed to the Indus Valley civilization, continues to be one of the most beguiling mysteries for anthropologists and historians. To transfer to the big screen a title that instantly evokes nothing short of epic storytelling would be a stupendous task. Ashutosh Gowariker, a specialist in constructing large scale box office hits like Lagaan(2001) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008) steps up to this task, and he has his work cut out for him. Even though this expensive undertaking puts up gorgeous sets, spectacular city-scapes and a decent music score, Mohenjo Daro lags behind in the ratings for great cinema that Gowariker is best known for.

Combing through a trove of known historical Mohenjo Daro lore, Gowariker’s team has pieced together a film based on speculation of what life might have been at the time. Sarman (Roshan), an adventuring laborer along with his uncle Durjan (Bharadwaj) collects indigo, a precious trading commodity at the time. He is from the outlying regions and finds himself drawn to the capital Mohenjo Daro. There, a run-in with Moonja (Singh), the son of Mohenjo Daro’s strong man Maham (Bedi), sets Sarman on a collision course intertwined with nothing short of the future of the city-state. Sarman’s interest in Channi (Hegde), the enchanting daughter of the temple priest only complicates Sarman’s prospects further, as Moonja also professes interest in the same girl.

The tantalizing detail and care that has gone into bringing all of this together is remarkable. The sets, from a 25-acre model city built in Bhuj to represent the city’s central baths which are the same dimensions as the actual baths dug up at the Pakistan site are eye-popping and beautiful. The mythology that centers on an emblem featuring a unicorn, a two tier way of life–an “upper city” for the Indus Valley one-percenter power players and the “lower city” for folks of meager means also accentuates an outlook that taps into feudalism as an ancient practice.

To describe it in broad strokes, this movie is an action-adventure-love story. This means that Roshan and Hegde have to feature on the screen extensively. Roshan’s Sarman finds himself in harm’s way with man-eating crocodiles, giant-sized cannibals and hordes of Moonja’s goons and also possible flooding in the Indus River which Maham the usurper has sinister plans to exploit. Because the Indus Valley script remains undeciphered to this day, that language remains unknown. Gowariker uses an interesting ploy to have the dialog revert to (mostly) classical Hindustani. The sub-titles come in handy.

So where are the gaps? The staggering budget, for one. Covered by one of the largest budgets ever for a Hindi movie, the “making of” was talked about for months before. Then, we heard about cost overruns and also about Roshan’s payday for this movie, reported to be equivalent to the full budgets of most A-list Hindi movies. Ouch! The shooting schedule was further delayed by Roshan having to recover from injuries suffered during the extensive action shoots. Ouch again!

A. R. Rahman’s score has one or two stops that make those pieces good listening. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics also toss in bits of an imaginary lingo ascribed to that period. The title track here is from the same school as Rahman’s celebratory “Azeem O Shaan Shahenshah” from Jodhaa Akbar and here also it sounds moderately pleasing. There are ample tribal chimes and wood instruments that form an alternate sound. The “alternate” however, could be Rahman in an experimental mood rather than the score being an out-of-this-world salute to an era that slipped unknown into antiquity. Still, “Tu Hai” and “Sindu Ma” sung by Rahman and Sanah Moidutty are love tracks—the latter is an ode to the Indus River and lingers on.

Released on the same day as Rustom, the other recent box office contender, Mohenjo Daro underperformed at the Box Office on a one to one count with Rustom. We need to wait and see if the tepid box office returns can help recover the massive outlay for the movie. The story of the rise and relatively sudden disappearance of the Indus Valley civilization, a culture that thrived in what is now primarily Pakistan and India about 4,000 years ago is shrouded in the mists of history. If nothing else, Gowariker deserves kudos for imaginatively recreating bits of that history.

EQ: B

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

At First Peek Mohenjo Daro Does Not Meet the Expectations of Fashion Historians

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A thread sample was removed from a copper bead excavated at Harappa in 1999. It was silk. This new discovery of silk in the Indus Valley pushes back the earliest date of silk outside of China by a millennium, states the research done under the auspices of Harvard’s Harappa Archaeological Research Project. A team from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, New York University and Harvard University jointly carried out recent work at Harappa. Mohenjo Daro, a film directed by Ashutosh Gowariker that releases on August 12, 2016 is set in the Harappan civilization. Historical accuracy of the cast’s clothes, and headgear is a subject of great interest to the fashion bloggers.

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Map: http://www.crystalinks.com/induscivilization.html

The Indus Civilization was one of the great river civilizations of the ancient world, covering an area larger than that of Mesopotamia or of Egypt. It extended from the Himalaya and Hindu Kush to the coastal regions of Kutch and Gujarat; westward into Baluchistan and eastward into northwestern India. Harappa was the first of the Indus cities to be discovered. The civilization spanned over 3000 years.

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The release of the trailer for the movie Mohenjo Daro set fashion bloggers a titter. April Ferry who won an Emmy Award for the costumes in the TV show Rome had initially worked on the film’s costumes.

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After she left Neeta Lulla stepped in. Lulla had worked with Hrithik Roshan in Jodhaa Akbar a film known for its opulent costumes. What is the verdict of the fashion history nazis on the first peek into the movie?

“The trailer says it’s 2016 BC. It’s a bit worrisome that the next time someone Googles “Mohenjo Daro Costumes” for educational purposes, they’ll stumble upon snapshots from the film!” blogs Purushu Arie.

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Among the many things he points us is the fact that “India is a hot and humid nation and due to climatic conditions, both men and women living in the time of Mohenjo Daro simply wrapped a rectangular cloth in lungi style. Bifurcated garments came much later around the time of the Kushanas.” The movie hints at tailored garments.

Small fragments of cloth preserved in the corrosion products of metal objects show that the Harappans wove a range of grades of cotton cloth. Flax was grown and may have been used for fibers. (Good, Irene, J.M Kenoyer and R.H. Meadow (2009) “New evidence for early silk in the Indus Civilization”.)

Hirthik Roshan’s pristine white clothes have therefore not found favor with Purushu either. “Though the bleaching technique was known to the ancient Indians, they mostly used natural bleaching techniques like sun drying and so on, and not chemicals like chlorine or peroxides. As a result, pristine white clothes never existed in ancient history and they always had a slight beige shade.”

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Evidence found hints at men wearing a cloth around the waist. Women’s clothing seems to have been a knee-length skirt. In fact, as per some figurines, women sometimes went bare-breasted. In fact the movie carries a large plate on the wall, revealing this historical information.

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The heroine, Chaani is shown wearing a blue (Indigo) and red colored dress. Both these colors were common in the Indus Valley Civilization, with blue being a ‘regal’ and ‘rare’ color. Anju Modi the designer who put together costumes for the historic film Bajirao Mastani said to Asian Age, “The whole attire is very modern, and I can’t understand if it is imaginary or a real life character. One can’t criticize the director’s vision without knowing the context of the film, and it is something that one can figure out only after having watched the movie. Going by the name of the film, Mohenjo Daro, one would expect the first look to be very true to the essence of the film and imagine the protagonist to be dressed in something that is very raw, rustic, basic and handmade considering the era it is set in.”

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Kabir Bedi, the villain of the piece, supports a headgear similar to the one found on the famous Pashupati (‘Proto Sivo’) Seal.’ The circle in the middle of the forehead is adopted from the bust of a bearded man found in Harappa.

DailyO has the last word. We’ll really know only in August this year. Till then, it’s Fantasia in the Mound of the Dead.

 

Ritu Marwah is Social Media Editor at India Currents. She is an avid reader of history, a discipline in which she has a post-masters degree.