Sarman (Hrithik Roshan) is a village boy, a humble indigo farmer’s nephew with remarkable strength and skill. We see this as he fights off a crocodile attack. But Sarman has funny dreams (featuring a white unicorn) and a drive to leave his village of Aamri and travel to the big city of Mohenjo Daro.
Accompanied by his friend Hojo, Sarman travels to Mohenjo Daro with the indigo and plans to sell his product there. But once there he feels a strange sense of belonging and rather easily starts jumping into local conflicts. He even sets his sights on the head priest’s daughter Chaani who it seems is recognizable only in her elaborate headgear. When he wants to meet Sarman in stealth she removes her fancy headdress and ornate robes and wanders the city with him without prompting a second look from the locals who otherwise revere her.
Sarman wants to be coupled with Chaani but her marriage was fixed much before to the chief minister’s son Moonja (Arunoday Singh). Sarman also learns the truth of his birth and antecedents setting him on a direct collision course with Maham (Kabir Bedi) and his son Moonja. This sets up Sarman for a gladiatorial fight in a public arena with two savage men. This scene is one of the highlights of the film along with Sarman slaying a crocodile and the song in which various colourful costumes and communities extol the virtues of the grand kingdom on Mohenjo Daro – a trading centre ahead of its time. Not only does Sarman want to win Chaani from Moonja but he also wants to overthrow Maham’s exploitative rule as he secretly mines gold and trades it for arms.
Images and lessons from your history textbook jump onto screen and while director Gowariker has worked with fact as his base he’s padded on plenty of fiction to create a mythical ancient world. Unfortunately onto this canvas he’s painted on a hackneyed storyline – where the upper and lower cities collide and where good must triumph over evil. Hrithik Roshan is the soaring act in this ambitious epic, making the most of a part limited by the script and some mediocre costars, among then Singh who’s performance oscillates between silly and sinister and Hegde whose headdresses have more personality than she does.
But finally Gowariker shows his loose handle on the story and pacing. The first half plods on a bit but the pace tightens in the second half. While A R Rahman’s songs are given scale, the tacky computer graphics rob the film of credibility in crucial and dramatic scenes. Overall, keeping in mind that ‘Mohenjo Daro’ is not a documentary, this romantic drama takes overused Hindi cinema plot drivers and packages them in nice costumes and an ancient fantasy land.