Film: Mission Mangal
Director: Jagan Shakti
Cast: Akshay Kumar,Vidya Balan,Sonakshi Sinha,Taapsee Pannu,Nithya Menen,Kirti Kulhari,Sharman Joshi,Sanjay Kapoor
Mission Mangal is a film that tries to balance out Akshay Kumar’s nationalism with a dose of it’s ‘not just about the country, it’s about why you chose to do what you do’. A ‘work is worship’ drama that revolves around India’s first Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) undertaken by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with a team of scientists majorly women who contributed to the ‘Mangalyaan’ mission. By default, the lead had to be male played by Akshay Kumar as the lead scientist of the mission behind whom stands the cool and smart Vidya Balan as the head program director of the Mars mission.
The film majorly focuses on the two of them, one being the dreamer (Vidya) and other the implementer (Akshay Kumar). The rest of the characters are given enough screen space to show the kinds of problems women in their personal and professional life face. An ensemble cast, likes of which include Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Kriti Kulhari, Nithya Menen, Sonakshi Sinha and Sharman Joshi among others, play various personifications of problems that plague the Indian society and affect women, families and bachelors. Yet, even after portraying all of these characters, the film did not follow anyone extensively into the personal ideological domain and maintained a distance from the psyche of the characters. In that regard, makers clearly focused only on the mission literally and metaphorically. But more so, the focus became blurred towards the second half after the stories of these characters gained prominence over the mission’s technicalities as such. We get it that the humane relatable element was the focus of the director Jagan Shakti, but the narrative would have been sharper, had both (Mission and the personal lives of its characters) found scales of balance in the film. For instance, that “Dil Mein Mars Hai” was a totally not required moment the film could have easily done without.
The production design of Mission Mangal was to the point and mostly based outside the scientific temper of ISRO, to the advantage of the film and the budget. The Mars building was a bit too much, but if the narrative is inspired by two events, one does not know what to really say.
The background score went well with the genre of the film, inspirational and anthem-like and not preachy, like other inspirational nationalistic films. Shilpa Rao’s “Shaabaashiyaan” is an example.
The film has been written well, a balance between a show and tell well-struck; dramatic moments are unnecessarily heightened in places not required sometimes but work well for a masala-entertainer ‘paisa vasool’ film.
As far as the lead actors are concerned, Akshay Kumar tries to deliver an earnest performance thankfully, unburdened by the heavy weight of ‘desh ki izzat’, not so much as for his passion of a scientist to experiment and deliver the ‘impossible’, a phrase Mission Mangal is obsessed with.
Vidya Balan is playing the perfect mix of the domestic and working woman-mother-wife, who is so chill and work-committed that the pressure of handling it all (a frustrated husband, home and the pressure to deliver Mission Mangal) is barely felt at all throughout the film through her character. She plays the ideal superwoman, who has mastered the art of balance in a society like ours.
Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Kriti Kulhari, Nithya Menen and Sharman Joshi all try to deliver in whatever space they have in the film. From tackling elements like Islamophobia to pregnancy and work-worship, all of these characters deliver problem personification well.
Despite having a subdued nationalistic arch in the film personified through Akshay Kumar, Mission Mangal thankfully did not have a national anthem rendition or a national flag hoisting, flying or waving tearful moment. Jagan Shakti balanced that part through Vidya Balan and her idealism in the form of ‘chase your dreams’ and don’t forget them despite ‘life happening to you’. It did get preachy, but never directly.
The film has also been shot well, thankfully the space part and things that almost look animated in Hindi films were well disguised and shot so as to make it all look believable. Historical references of APJ Abdul Kalam, the real team of Mangalyaan also found a way into the film, making its ‘feel proud to be an Indian’ part finding validation.
Mission Mangal is a feel-good film based on the indomitable spirit of people who are strong-willed and committed to achieving something. Without intellectualizing too much, this film celebrates the country’s space achievement without overdoing nationalism and blends well commercial film elements to make a ‘paisa-vasool’ film, entertaining and informational.