Having moved a mountain in his lifetime, Dasrath Manjhi has moved the normally star-struck Bollywood to make a biopic on him after his death.
Manjhi- The Mountain Man, a Ketan Mehta film releasing next month, is inspired by undying spirit of this landless labourer in Bihar, who in real life sliced through a 300-feet hill single-handedly to bring accessibility to his remote village.
The film is likely to bring Majhi nationwide fame posthumously. But Manjhi had already attained legendary status in Bihar, long before the movie was even conceived.
Born in a family of landless Mushahars - said to be the lowest of the low in Bihar’s rigid caste-ridden society- Manjhi faced steep odds. He toiled tirelessly in a landlord’s quarry but lived in penury. The tallest challenge, however, was a rocky mountain that stood between his village Gehlaur in Atri block of Gaya and civilization.
Cut off by the mountain from the rest of the world, the village had no electricity and no amenities. The nearest doctor was at Wazirganj, some 70 kilometres over the mountain.
Everyone cursed the remoteness, but did little. Until, Manjhi was spurred into action when his wife Falguni died in 1959. She reportedly died as she could not be taken to a doctor on time.
Manjhi spent the next 22 years chipping the mountain with a hammer, chisel and crowbar. People called him a lunatic, but he carried on till a tiny cleft across a rock wall opened up one day. He then went on to widen the cleft. Some several years later, he managed to carve out a passage 360 feet long and 30 feet wide.
The passage cut down Gehlaur’s distance to Wazirgang to 6 kilometres, catapulting Manjhi to the status of a folk hero. Having conquered the mountain, he earned the sobriquet of Mountain Man.
He died of cancer in 2007, but is still eulogized. Gehlour now has a road and a hospital, both named after him. A welcome gate is planned at the entrance of the village, to be named Dasrath Manjhi Dwar, says the Gaya district magistrate Sanjay Agarwal.
Manjhi, when alive, inspired awe. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar stood up and vacated his chair when Manjhi once visited him at his Janata Durbar in Patna. The movie – with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the role of Manjhi - now may make the nation take a bow in memory of the Mountain Man.