A glorious retelling of India’s biggest scientific marvel led by a team of superSheroes- Vijayalakshmi Narayanan
Before I begin raving about the biggest family entertainer, this Independence Day, let me clarify the drama surrounding the theory that a male star is being given more prominence in the film and its promotions than the leading ladies. Let’s quickly look at some statistics. Pardon for digressing but a reality check doesn’t hurt right? Akshay Kumar’s last film, ‘Kesari’ was a superhit, earning 153 crores, locally. The collective earnings of the last films done by ‘Mission Mangal’s popular leading ladies Vidya Balan (Tumhari Sulu), Taapsee Pannu (Game Over), Sonakshi Sinha (Khandaani Shafakhaana) stands at less than one-third of that figure, 43 crores to be specific. Hypocrisy much?
Directed by Jagan Shakti, ‘Mission Mangal’ exploits the star power of the country’s most bankable superstar to tell an important story of India’s biggest scientific accomplishment achieved by women that would not unfortunately find the eyes or ears in a country obsessed with male-dominant films. And Akshay has an impressive filmography in recent years that has ticked off patriotism and women empowerment on its checklist. Thankfully, he backtracks from the limelight and lets his ladies shine.
We are first introduced to the failure of ISRO’s GSLV Fat Boy due to technical flaws, which were overruled by scientist Tara Shinde (Balan) prior to the launch, a responsibility that her boss at ISRO, Rakesh Dhawan (Kumar) gladly accepts. The Indian Space Commission demotes Dhawan to the abandoned Mars Mission Management and appoints the NASA return Rupert Desai (Dalip Tahil sporting a hammy American accent) to lead India’s Space Mission programme. A chance news clipping announcing America’s Naval Satellite Launch to Mars sparks off Tara’s resolve to send India to Mars with the use of a lighter satellite (PSLV). Her resolve is backed by Dhawan and together, they put a motley crew of scientists including Navigation and Communication in-Charge Kritika Agarwal (Taapsee), Propulsion Control by Eka Gandhi (Sonakshi) Satellite Design by Varsha Pillai (Nithya Menen), Program Autonomy by Neha Siddiqui (Kirti Kulhari Sehgal), Payloads by Parmeshwar Joshi (Sharman Joshi) and Structural Design by Ananth Iyengar (Three-time National Award winner H.G Dattatreya)
Shakti, whose own relative works at ISRO, sticks true to the original story giving strong back-stories to all his characters. Backed by R. Balki, Nidhi Singh Sharma and Saketh Kondiparthi, the director smartly weaves facts and entertainment to create an engaging storyline. Though the dramatization used for entertainment value sticks out like a sore thumb. Casting directors Nandini Shrikent and Karan Mally have not only put together a stellar ensemble, even the supporting actors chosen for smaller parts are commendable. Especially, Vikram Gokhale as the Director at ISRO, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub and Sanjay Kapoor as Kritika and Tara’s husbands, respectively. Chandan Arora has edited the film concisely to two hours and fifteen minutes. Sandeep Ravade’s production design too is very effective.
As for the performances, Kumar is in good form. He has some clever lines to his credit but he is somewhat overshadowed by the delightful presence of Balan. As the spiritually inclined and always positive Tara, the actress is a beacon of hope. Some of the words of wisdom she doles out are pure gold. The rest of the cast too are equally rock solid. Sonakshi probably does her most effortless work here, while Taapsee makes an impression in a much silent role. Nithya and Kirti embody grit and determination while Joshi and Dattatreya bring in enough comic relief in between.
The thrilling climax of ‘Mission Mangal’ will keep you at the edge of your seats and eventually, you will walk out of the theatre, swelling with pride and belief in the extraordinary possibilities of the ordinary Indian dream.