By Saibal Chatterjee
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Pooja Hegde, Kabir Bedi, Arunoday Singh, Manish Chaudhary
One thing is abundantly clear in Mohenjo Daro: both director Ashutosh Gowariker and lead actor Hrithik Roshan have seen better days.
This is a film they would have to forget quickly if they are to move on with their respective careers.
An ambitious lookback at how inhabitants of the fabled Indus Valley might have lived in 2016 BC, Mohenjo Daro is a monumental mess.
Sit through the drab and dreary two-and-a-half-hour film and you will still be as hard pressed as you were at the outset to figure out its purpose.
It is an overlong period fairy tale in which a brave crocodile-slayer and hard-working farmer Sarman (Hrithik Roshan) leaves his village and heads to the 'big city' of Mohenjo Daro to sell the indigo that his farm has yielded.
In the city full of knaves and frauds, the village boy falls head over heels for pretty lass Chaani (Pooja Hegde), who is the daughter of the priest (Manish Chaudhary).
But the path of love is strewn with thorns in the form of the city's ruthless ruler (Kabir Bedi) and his son Munja (Arunoday Singh), whose reign of terror has left the inhabitants in the dumps.
So Sarman decides to stand up for himself and the oppressed citizens and lead a revolt against the tyrant and his son.
Mohenjo Daro is a terribly cliched yarn in which all the conventions of Bollywood potboilers love, revenge, oppression and heroism are liberally employed.
The result is an adventure saga that looks like a poor copy of C-grade Hollywood costume drama.
The only time the film stirs to life is when post-intermission the hero fights two ferocious cannibal combatants in order to free the priest's daughter from the clutches of the chieftain's son.
It is a long, violent tussle that gives Mohenjo Daro's downtrodden a glimpse of the power of the man who will set out to liberate them from years of subjugation.
Hrithik brings nothing fresh to his role. He looks good, dances niftily and acquits himself rather well in the action sequences. But that is about it as far as his contribution to this bloated film is concerned.
Pooja Hegde, in her first Hindi film appearance, neither looks nor sounds right for the role of a prehistoric beauty blessed with special powers.
Mohenjo Daro is marred by a storyline so hackneyed that it holds no surprises at all.