Mission Mangal Good To Go But Not Good Enough

Mission Mangal

Starring  Vidya Balan, Tapsee Pannu, Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha,Nithya Manen, Kriti Kulhari

Directed  by Jagat Shakti

Rating:  ** ½ (two and a  half stars)

 Inspiring,yes. But  in an uncomfortably perspiring  way. Mission Mangal, based on  a true and truly  commendable  mission to launch a rocket into Mars, tried very hard to tick all the  right boxes in the manual  entitled  ‘How To Get  A Tax Exemption For Your Film.’ It addresses the question of India’s national and international pride. It  speaks about  empowered  women  balancing a personal life with their  mission to orbit India into Mars.

Most importantly, and  this one is saved  for  the last,the Prime  Minister Narendra Modi appears  on screen to praise  the  mission that we’ve  just seen being accomplished in a film that tries to  be as pleasing as it could possibly be. In the  process the film loses out on a more processed  and sorted narrative  . The  characters are mostly one-dimensional.

Except  for  Vidya Balan who has more space  than the  other mission-targeted   ladies, the actresses are most constrained  by space and defined by  boxed definitions of urban workingclass women.

In the  process the men come across as shadowy and cardboard-like.  Sanjay Kapoor as Vidya Balan’s ever-complaining husband trying to manage a late-night-loving daughter and a  son who threatens to convert to Islam(because he is an A R Rahman fan!) comes across as specially annoying. In  one unbearably  sanctimonious  sequence Vidya and  her  husband  rush to  a night club to ‘rescue’ their daughter,  get drunk and start dancing toAnkhiyan milaye kabhi aankhiyan  jhukaye  from  the Sanjay Kapoor starrer Raja.

In another corny-as-hell sequence  the  female  protagonists beat up a man in a metro train after he  roughs up a drunken Akshay Kumar. Kumar, ever the gallant soldier, watches the ladies take  centrestage. Throughout the film he hangs around  the  all-important  mission letting the ladies have their  moment  of glory but making sure gets the best lines and the final right to veto any  decision.

Vidya  Balan who  should rightfully  have been the  pivotal  character  must be content as  the second-in-command. She  is as usual  wonderfully intense and  graceful  as long as the script allows her to be. The rest of the ladies  have to make  do with sketchy  anecdotes  to  show their individuality. Tapsee Pannu comes  across as specially hazy, hanging around waiting for something substantial  to do.Kriti Kulhar’s character as  Muslim divorcee looking for a home to rent  had some potential squandered  away in what the film seems to specialize in:  trivializing issues.

As for the  super-talented Nithya Menen, I wanted to see more  of her on screen. But  the script had other plans.

 That  mission to Mars never comes down  to being the vital   national  triumph that it aspires  to be. When AkshayKumar isn’t busy sparring with the NASA returned idiot scientist(Dalip Tahil)  he is  busy humming old Hindi songs and chewing on a laddoo  after an  aborted  mission because…well….the laddoo doesn’t say it can’t be eaten after  a failure.

This is one  of Akshay’s verbal salvos. He even gets to pun on NASA with the  embarrassing coinage  ‘Satya-NASA’  . The problem is  the script seems more interested in the missiles that the film’s  leading man  fires than  any  other. By the time  the ladies got together  to sing and dance  and clean their  office with shiny brooms I  was lost on the  mission, sold on the film’s  spirited ode to escapism. One needn’t go to the Mars  to experience  outerspace  nirvana.A  film like this one gives  us  the same  experience at ground level.

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