Mission Mangal Movie Review: Shubh Mangal Bollywood!
Most movies suffer from what's called the 'curse of the second half'. Mission Mangal is a rare one that reverses that principle. It gets much better towards the end!
Director: Jagan Shakti
Actors: Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Taapsee Pannu, Nithya Menen, Kirti Kulhari, Sharman Joshi
This is actually a pretty sweet, syrupy film, in a schmaltzy sort of way, full of Hallmark card type quotable quotes, on success and life, and all that jazz. To a point that you may even forget sometimes that it's entirely a space-mission movie to begin with. And, indeed India's first of its kind.
What kind, specifically? Detailing how scientists at the cash-strapped Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) managed to pull off the world's first take-off to Mars on its maiden attempt, in 2013, and in fact became the first Asian country to do so. The mission was named MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission); in Hindi, Mangalyaan.
How did India manage this feat? If you go by this film, and I have no reasons to believe otherwise, through much "jugaad". That word being India's recent contribution to the English language, meaning "a flexible approach to problem-solving that uses limited resources in an innovative way." And while rocket science sounds all fancy, it isn't quite like being an astronaut, you know. What we do know about scientists? That they do extremely sedentary work, with a lot going on in their heads and/or computer screens, for sure; but very little happening on the ground. How do you make such folk interesting enough for a feature film; more importantly reaching out to widest audiences, which is toughest still?
As you can see again, through a lot of Bollywood jugaad! Having super-star Akshay Kumar (as the dapper chief scientist) on board, and of course releasing the film on Independence Day, guarantees bums on seats, for one. But how does one keep them glued? Through humanizing stories of scientists on screen—their love, life, pakoda, lahsan, maa, baap, biwi, boyfriend... Basically make this about people like us.
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Which is what scientists are as well. And that's the image from the success of Mangalyan that went out to the world, and pretty sure, inspired the making of this movie (directed by debutant Jagan Shakti, with a touch of R Balki): A group of saree-clad ladies, who could pass off for any other aunty-jis next-door, leading and celebrating first Indian flight to the planet men are supposed to come from. The irony was lost on no one. I'm sure you've seen that press photograph. It became a symbol of women's empowerment.
Google if you haven't. But don't be too disappointed if you figure that absolutely none of the leading ladies in this film—Sonakshi Sinha, Kirti Kulhari, et al—instantly resemble the super female scientists from that iconic pic. At least Vidya Balan is slightly modelled on the part she plays. Frankly, the lovely Balan as the deeply passionate ISRO project director, juggling her job with jostling with her family, is all you need to be drawn to this film, that mixes home science with rocket science. And, hell, this auntyji can dance!
As for the actual science itself, it seems like a far too simplistic, superficial series of eureka moments of epiphany. Here's the thing though—in case that bothers you. It did bore me in parts. You know where this film is headed. Most movies suffer from what's called the 'curse of the second half'—set-up all great, but falling flat on the face by the end of it. This is a rare one that reverses that principle. It gets much better towards the end!
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Until then, you've hopefully been entertained through comedy and drama. If science and the space mission was all you wanted to see, there's always a National Geographic documentary on Mangalyaan, playing on YouTube near you.
Independence Day released Mission Mangal is making noise for all right reasons. The film, which is based on the true story of India's mission to Mars, stars Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Tapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Nithya Menen, Kirti Kulhari and Sharman Joshi in pivotal roles. Helmed by Jagan Shakti and co-produced by PadMan director R Balki, the film is slated to release on August 15, 2019, along with John Abraham's Batla House. (All photos/Fox Star India's official Instagram account)
What's more special about the film?
"NASA sent a satellite to Mars for close to Rs 6000 crore and ISRO did it in only Rs 450 crore. Just see the difference. A little common sense and we saved a lot of money. Can you believe this story has not been told yet? I want to tell it, that's why I came on board," said Mission Mangal director Jagan Shakti.
A look at the characters of Mission Mangal!
Akshay Kumar as Rakesh Dhawan: Akshay plays a bachelor of science in Mission Mangal. He believes there's no science without experiment. Earlier, the actor had revealed the reason why he chose to do Mission Mangal. He said that he did the film for his daughter, Nitara Bhatia, and children of her age to familiarise them with the incredible true story of India's mission to Mars.
Vidya Balan as Tara Shinde: Vidya Balan plays a scientist in Mission Mangal, whose home science game is unparalleled. Vidya had told in an earlier interview that she fell in love with the story of Mission Mangal the moment director Jagan Shakti and producer R Balki narrated her the script.
Sonakshi Sinha as Eka Gandhi: Sonakshi plays an independent scientist in Mission Mangal who knows innovation at its best. One will get to see some interesting hacks by her in the film.
Nithya Menen as Varsha Pillai: Multiple award-winning south Indian actress Nithya Menen is making her Bollywood debut with Mission Mangal. She plays a very important part in the film as Varsha is the woman behind the name M.O.M: Mars Orbiter Mission, it will be interesting to find out how in the film. One can see Purab Kohli in the poster, though, the makers have kept his role under wraps!
Taapsee Pannu as Kritika Aggarwal: Taapsee plays a passionate Comms Specialist in Mission Mangal. She is a simple, loving woman who loves her job. Actor Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub essays the role of Taapsee Pannu's supportive husband.
Kirti Kulhari as Neha Siddiqui: Kirti, who was seen in Uri: The Surgical Strike, plays a scientist in Mission Mangal, who believes that science has no religion.
Sharman Joshi as Parmeshwar Naidu: Sharman plays a quirky character in Mission Mangal, a scientist who is superstitious! The makers claim that Sharma's character is sure to make you laugh!
Backed by R Balki and Akshay Kumar, directed by Jagan Shakti, Mission Mangal makers are hoping that the film becomes a landmark in Indian cinema, much like the Hollywood sci-fi films. A film that inspires as much as it entertains.
As one of the most talked-about films of the year Mission Mangal inches closer to its release, the excitement around the film is only increasing. Here's a look at the characters of Mission Mangal
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Public review: Mission Mangal