It seems that Ashutosh Gowariker’s quest for good cinema ends with humongous sets and big stars. While there seems to be a sudden – and welcome – urge among Hindi filmmakers to make historical epics, their lack of attention to historical facts leaves the discerning audience with a bad taste in the mouth. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani recently portrayed Bajirao as an indefatigable Hindu warrior, one whose only mission was to hoist the saffron flag in India by defeating his Muslim opponents, the Mughals. That the modern Indian state was yet to be born and that the Mughal empire was no caliphate, are facts disregarded by him.
Yet again, a historical film seems to be catching public attention, but for all the wrong reasons.
Gowariker, of Lagaan (2001) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008) fame, recently released the trailer of his much-awaited Mohenjo Daro, which is being touted as not just his magnum opus but the greatest film ever made in India. Unfortunately, the trailer gives us nothing but a twisted idea of a civilisation that seems far from real. Mohenjo Daro, which was the name of one of the biggest urban townships of the Harappan or Indus Valley civilisation, is the story of one of the first cities of the world. Gowariker gets the date right – 2016 BCE, which the trailer announces – but apart from this, he gets almost every other aspect of the ancient civilisation grossly wrong.
The use of heavily Sanskritised Hindi in the trailer leads one to believe that a similar dialect was spoken around that time. There is no disclaimer to the contrary. Professional historians, archaeologists and Indologists alike have argued that multiple dialects of the Bronze age were possibly in use during the Indus Valley civilisation, or that it could have been a nonlinguistic civilisation. At any rate, there is hardly any evidence for a Sanskrit-based, spoken or written, language; this was something that evolved much later.