Mission Mangal – My movie experience


Mission Mangal trailer - The internet has given its stamp of approval to Akshay Kumar's newest film

I am on a mission. Nothing critical or clandestine.

As a parent, I want my daughter to adapt to the local culture. It’s been three years since we moved back to India. My daughter still has to sink her teeth into the pop-culture here. Yes, she has adapted quite beautifully in her school and is faring well. But, life is more than just academics or the group that she’s associated with.

So, while she’s quite clued in to the latest Hollywood pop culture and trends for her age-group, she’s quite clueless about the happenings here. Well, the fault is not entirely hers. A lot of Indian movies today are not kid-friendly, to be honest. So, I’ve hardly taken her to watch the films here, barring a Dangal here and a Baahubali there.

But, she’s growing fast now. She’s ten, and I can start taking her out more often now. I wanted to take her out to watch “Oh Baby” ( Telugu) a few months back, but life got in-between, and we will have to wait for it to come on Netflix, Prime or Hotstar now.

Today, the toss was between Saaho and Mission Mangal. We opted for the latter.

Mission Mangal was way better than I expected. When I read that the movie was made in just 30 days, I had my doubts. Was this a rushed-up project or propaganda of sorts? There were some critique reviews which panned the movie and the faux feminism in it. Plus, I was still reeling from the disaster called Padman in which Akshay Kumar was super-annoying.

Mission Mangal turned out to be a pleasant surprise. For a movie that was made in a record 30 days, I thought it turned out pretty good. Yes, it’s not Oscar material, but it had the right elements of a good commercial potboiler. The movie is engaging, humorous, and inspiring.

Akshay Kumar was watchable. He’s a limited actor, and within his abilities, he did a decent job. Way better than his act as Padman. Though it’s questionable why Akshay Kumar for the role of an ISRO scientist when there are more worthy actors, he adds a certain zing and charm to the role which helps hook the audience.

I’ve always liked Taapsu Pannu both on and offscreen. She has that je ne sais quoi, that spark that’s unmissable. Offscreen, I love her intelligence, edginess, and candid ways. Even that much-criticized intro scene of hers where she holds her driving tutor’s crotch instead of the gear was unfair. That scene made perfect sense and fit in perfectly with the overall context of that movie portion. No spoilers why here but, I found it genuinely funny. The situational comedy worked for the audience who were in splits.

Kirti Kulhari is a good actress irrespective of the length of her role. But here, she looked morose and lifeless all through the movie. It wouldn’t have mattered if some other actress swapped places with her. Yes, she played the divorcee who was going through a harrowing time. But, so were the other women who had their emotional baggage to carry in the movie and not very fleshed out characters barring for Vidya Balan. But in all probability, she was just following the director’s instructions.

Sonakshi Sinha was the surprise package of the lot. I’ve only seen her in item songs where all she has to do is shake a leg, and look sexy, which she does well, by the way, to her credit. Dignity of labor, people! But, I liked the way she played her part in this movie. Though short, it was a powerful and impactful performance. She has a long inning in Bollywood ahead of her for sure.

Nithya Menon fit the bill of a Malayali scientist in terms of her look and couldn’t have asked for a better Hindi debut. Her performance was subtle, understated, and memorable. I loved the scene where she tells her newborn that one day he/she could go to Mars.

But the one who takes the top honors and rightly so is Vidya Balan. What a natural actress! She nails every scene so effortlessly that it doesn’t feel like she’s acting in the first place. She is easily the coolest actress we have in the industry today. Like Taapsee Pannu, she is another actress that I love both on and offscreen. I love the fact that she is regular, down-to-earth, warm, and doesn’t let success get to her head. One of those those few celebrities who are unassuming about their stardom. Also, her look and mannerisms reminded me of Smriti Irani in the movie. Was that intentional or just a coincidence? I can’t tell. Anyway, Vidya Balan should be the first choice to play Smriti Irani onscreen if ever in the future.

I was happy to see Sharman Joshi on screen after long. He is one talented actor who hasn’t got his due as yet. He was terrific in 3 idiots. Here, he plays a superstitious virgin and does an excellent job with his comic timing as usual. I hope he bags more opportunities now on.

We enjoyed the movie. I genuinely didn’t find anything major to complain about the film.

About the faux feminism criticism, isn’t the glass-ceiling a reality in most organizations? How many women do we know at the helm of organizations including ISRO? Not counting the women board members and directors who are at the top leadership owing to privilege and family connections. The movie is a fictional account of the reality.

Though Akshay Kumar might be the man on top, it’s the women around him who are bouncing off with random ideas and suggestions. He’s smart enough to take it and not mansplain them. All his role requires him to do is to keep up the patriotic tempo which he does quite well anyway. Vidya Balan plays the calm and fearless working mother who remains unflustered with a paranoid husband. She knows how to ultimately get her way and lets no one come in the way of her dreams. She allows her children to follow their heart as well.

I liked how the movie explores some sensitive and grey topics with panache. It wasn’t necessary yet the fact that it touched upon those topics was appreciable. The Islamophobia, the science-religion/faith clash, blind superstition, and more. There are no white and black answers here and these issues could easily spark controversy but it’s all handled deftly.

My favorite scene in the movie has to be the scene where a drunk Akshay Kumar gets almost beaten up in a metro train by a group of bad guys. But, Sonakshi Sinha beats them to a pulp and then, the rest of the women join her in beating the shit out the bad guys. Five whistles!

Now coming to the propaganda part, Mission Mangal was launched during the Manmohan Singh government. There is no mention of that anywhere in the movie. Modi happened to be the right person, at the right time. He was the newly elected PM when the mission took off.  There’s a speech clipping of his at the end. Clever use of media for party promotion. Then, there’s a sly dig on Gandhi as the “Father of the nation”. The list goes on. You can nitpick several allusions which is propaganda. On the whole though, it’s a good tribute to our scientists, including the late A.P.J.Kalam Sir.

Mission Mangal is a must-watch movie. Just don’t take everything they show in the film as the gospel truth. There is some fact, some fiction, some propaganda.

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Tina Sequeira
Tina Sequeira is a marketer and moonlighting writer. She is passionate about tech, creativity, and social justice—dabbling in and writing about the same.