In a film that scores high, it is always good to iron out the few sore points first. So we mention yet, pardon the gimmicky dance in the ISRO office, the even more gimmicky way of transforming the shabby premises allotted to the Mars team by the team painting the premises up themselves, and the disco sequence. We will even forgive the subtle pointer at communal bias against Neha Siddiqui (Kirti Kulhari Sehgal) in the matter of accommodation, as something unnecessary.
But all these are permissible in the overall intent of reaching all strata in the pan-Indian audience. Yes, one does think that with an evolved Indian audience of today, such things for the sake of it could have been dispensed with, but guess the film’s makers are not as confident. Science, after all, can be complex for the layman, though the writers and directors here have made it as simple as possible.
However, Kritika Agarwal (Taapsee Pannu)’s learning-to-drive sequences are fun, and her hospital episode with an injured husband significant. The way key homilies and even solutions are derived from real-life trivia like a ‘puri’ being fried, a laptop rebooted and how Eka Gandhi (Sonakshi Sinha) finds inspiration are interestingly devised and plausible script ploys. The dramatic highs and turnarounds are no doubt ‘filmi’ and quite melodramatic, but they add to the cohesive grip on the narration that becomes rivetingly entertaining.
It is unclear who among the writers has penned the dialogues (me thinks the vote will be for R. Balki), but the lines and their humor are the highlights of the script. Akshay Kumar’s character Rakesh Dhawan singing appropriate old Hindi film songs like “Kabhi Tera Daaman Na Chhodenge Hum” (I will never let you alone, used in a broader meaning to denote his attraction to Mars)” from the ‘60s “Neend Hamari Khwab Tumhare” or eating laddoos after a failed mission are memorable, as is the idea behind Tara (Vidya Balan)’s cake-cutting ceremony.
Briefly, as we all know, the story is a fictionalized and much-dramatized account about India’s successful Mars mission, Mangalyaan, and the scientists who took responsibility for the adventure and took risks after one prominent failure. In 2.13 hours of run-time, however, we see a drag only after the climax, which could have been crisper. But that’s only by a few minutes.
Technically, the art direction and production design (Sandeep Sharad Ravade
and Daniel Hansen respectively) and S. Ravi Verman’s cinematography are standout, as are the visual effects. Amit Trivedi’s background score is unobtrusive and pleasantly low-key, while his music is functional.
Sonakshi Sinha has a layered character and she scores high as Eka Gandhi, as does H.D. Dattatreya as the elderly scientist in the team. Vidya Balan, once again, is a natural and is excellent as the team leader Tara Shinde. Kulhari and Menen do not have much scope, but are good, and Taapsee Pannu scores with her expressions and body language in a simple, uni-dimensional role. Sharman Joshi as the astrology-obsessed scientist has a lively character and the actors essays it with charm.
The supporting artistes are mostly good, with Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub actually acting rather than hamming, and Rohan Joshi as the aspiring musician scores with his performance. Dalip Tahil hams a bit, and Sanjay Kapoor hams a lot!
All this said, this immensely well-directed and scripted film belongs mainly to Akshay Kumar. He is magnificently in sync with his character, with those natural tweaks of naughtiness, humor, passion and sadness as well. This is one of his best performances in a long while, and considering the length, much better than even in “Kesari.” Here is a complete natural, a superstar who is growing phenomenally as actor with every single film.
Overall, and especially because of the dry period that has preceded this film, “Mission Mangal” is a must-watch, especially for every patriotic Indian.
Fox Star Studios, Cape of Good Films and Hope Productions present ‘Mission Mangal’
Produced by: R. Balki & Akshay Kumar
Directed by: Jagan Shakti
Written by: Jagan Shakti, R. Balki, Nidhi Singh Dharma & Saketh Kondiparthi
Music: Amit Trivedi
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari Sehgal, Nithya Menen, H.D. Dattatrey, Sharman Joshi, Sanjay Kapoor, Purab Kohli, Dalip Tahil, Vikram Gokhale, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Rohan Joshi, Kashmira Paradeshi, Pramatesh Mehta, Mohan Kapoor, Jhuma Biswas, Manohar Desai & others