The biggest attraction of the movie was its title - Mohenjo Daro. Take that out and it is just a stale story, repeated myriads of times in the history of cinema. An antagonist rules over a city the way he wants to, driven by a thirst for revenge - a beautiful girl about to be betrothed to his son - a 'nobody' arriving on the scene with a flashback connected to the same city and a series of spiralling events. This story could have been set anywhere.
Sarman (Hrithik Roshan), a simpleton from the distant village comes to Mohenjo Daro to trade indigo, but gets involved in the politics and in a love tale with the daughter of the local priest, Jaani (Pooja Hegde). Her costume is more samba dancer and less priest's daughter, celebrated as the symbol of good luck for the city and hence widely respected, but I don't think I want to complain about that one. Then a bigger conspiracy (honestly speaking, it is not so unpredictable) unravels and Sarman finds himself saving the populace, first from Maham, the tyrannical head, and then from the Indus flood that ravages the city. Amidst that he fights with cannibals from far North, true Gladiator style and sings some songs pretending no one can follow the eye-talk between him and the lady-love.
The movie catches speed only in the second half and uses a lot of cliched set pieces like foreign traders, lust for gold and revenge saga to bring it to the climax where the heroic Sarman shows the power of his genes. He is an exponent at many an art, that he has hardly had exposure to.
From a technical point of view, the art direction is worth appreciating as an interesting pre-Christ era city was charmingly recreated. The detailing to costumes was a tad exaggerated and liberties were taken. But, like I mentioned earlier, searching for Mohenjo Daro in the story is like searching for Bombay in Bombay Duck. It is just a fancy name. The graphics of the all-swallowing floodwaters is pathetic and that climax scene of empowering heroism is a tad too lame and by that time you are waiting to go home. All in all, Ashtosh Gowariker repeats his style of slow, simmering cinema but this time around, the story, dialogues and music all arrive bereft of magic like in his previous ventures.
The music by AR Rahman for other Gowariker movies had charm, innovation and melody. In Mohenjo Daro, his music feels like the disgruntled code written by a frustrated coder after the year-end review. That hung heavily across the boredom! Hrithik was versatile as usual giving his everything while Pooja Hegde did a great job performing her role to perfection - looking like a decked up doll. She hardly had anything to do. When Gowariker made Lagaan, Jodha Akbar and Swades, he ensured his heroine has a role. This time he ends up writing a chauvinistic tale where she is reduced to being just a pretender. That came as a disappointment too. In the end, while Hrithik looks the part of an all-saving hero, it is not enough for the audience.