Mission Mangal Review: Space Mission for the Dummies
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan, India’s first interplanetary expedition was an achievement that not only propelled India’s position internationally as a space power, it has also gone on to become a story that’s inspiring for all of us in many ways. Hence it’s no surprise that the subject has inspired many people to attempt fictional works on the same. But with the kind of names that have come on board Jagan Shakti’s debut film, Mission Mangal it is but obviously the one that has been in the forefront of receiving attention from trade and audience as well. The promos had already made a couple of things clear, that the film would feature women in prominent positions as part of the team responsible for the Mars mission and that it would be an attempt to make the subject appear as audience friendly as possible. Hence on watching the film there’s no surprise as such, as you do end up watching what was being promised.
The film begins with a failed attempt by ISRO to launch the GSLV, post which the mission’s director Rakesh Dhawan (Akshay Kumar) is made in charge of India’s mars mission, in what seems to be an attempt to punish him indirectly. He is virtually left with no team & is given a very decrepit section inside ISRO’s Bengaluru campus and would have silently resigned himself to a fate of ignominy, but fate has other things in store. Rakesh’ deputy on the previous mission, Tara Shinde (Vidya Balan) comes up with an enthusiastic plan to make the mars mission successful, inspired by a culinary principle (yes indeed). And this is enough to get Rakesh charged up as well and push the director of ISRO (Vikram Gokhale) to back their plan. The going wouldn’t be easy of course, there is a stumbling block in the form of former NASA scientist Rupert Desai (Dalip Tahil) who doesn’t believe in the strategy and vision of Rakesh and Tara. What happens from thereon and how does MOM eventually turn out to be a successful mission is what we see as the rest of the film progresses.
At the very outset it is quite clear that Jagan Shakti and his co-writers (R.Balki, Nidhi Singh Dharma and Saketh Kondiparthi) had their mandate very clear, that of keeping the science quotient as minimum as possible and to keep the content palatable to the larger audience as much as possible. Hence there are enough and more situations in the film that can make the discerning viewer go wide eyed in shock, but then the majority audience seems to connect with them. It’s nice to see that the film is not just about the main leads, in fact the supporting characters also have enough of screen presence, especially in the second half of the film. It’s also heartening to see Akshay Kumar not hogging all the limelight and allowing the others to also take their share of centre stage, especially Vidya Balan who is essentially the soul of the film, her personal story too shown in an interesting fashion.
The film isn’t spectacular, far from it in fact and I am not just referring to the dumbing down of complex space science. The narrative follows a conventional but safe pattern; you can almost predict the turn of events that we would come across. There are also some stock characters employed for specific reasons and there’s no surprise on that front either. The film has an ensemble cast, most of them suiting the characters that they portray. Veterans Vikram Gokhale and Dalip Tahil are effective, Sanjay Kapoor manages to get noticed and H.G. Dattatreya as Ananth Iyer is impactful. As for the women, Sonakshi Sinha and Nithya Menon (would have loved to see more of her though) do well while Kirti Kulhari strangely appears a bit lost over here. Sharman Joshi as the scientist with a fear of mangal appears to be placed to provide for some lighter moments in an otherwise serious tale. Akshay Kumar looks comfortable playing Rakesh Dhawan, portraying him with some quirks and all but thankfully not going overboard. Vidya Balan is charming and totally a delight, being the fulcrum of the mars mission and even the film as well.
Mission Mangal ultimately may not make for a path breaking film on a pioneering space mission, but it is entertaining and makes for a relatively easy watch on the big screen.
Jagan Shakti’s debut may have its share of naysayers but it’s a film where he has where he has managed to keep a complicated subject simple enough to work for the majority audience.