Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Taapsee Pannu, Kriti Kulhari, Nithya Menen
When I saw posters of Mission Mangal, I couldn’t help but keep thinking it is completely disregarding everything the Indian lady scientists have achieved. They silently went on to do a job that had the world applauding them. Yet, when it comes to making a movie about them, we needed an Akshay Kumar to herald the script, as if without a man shepherding them, ladies will forever be lost. I admit, I entered the theatre with the prejudice, only to be seeing things from Jagan Shakti’s perspective within 133 minutes of the film.
Predictably the film begins with Rakesh Dhawan (Akshay Kumar). He is a cool scientist who masks his shrewd intelligence behind jokes and songs. He dreams big and isn’t afraid to take blame for someone else’s mistakes. Life goes on, just the way it should, he says. Yet, when he gets badgered by Tara Shinde (Vidya Balan) into believing they can send the Mangalyan to Mars despite the failure of Geosynchronous Satellite Vehicle Launch of 2013 – he cannot resist the need to right the wrongs.
Yet, the mere idea or even conviction is not enough, they need a team and more importantly finance. It is a costly effort to send a satellite to Mars. What begins with Dhawan’s persistence and Shinde’s determination ends up becoming a history that our nation will forever be proud of.
Peppering the mission are stories about strong women like Ms. Gandhi (Sonakshi Sinha) who dreams about NASA, so much so that it brings Dhawan to a point of calling her the only Gandhi who wants to quit India so enthusiastically. Kritika Agarwal (Taapsee Pannu) too has her share of issues but they have lesser screen time than Gandhi’s. Unfortunately, Varshan Pillai (Nithya Menen) and Neha Siddiqui (Kriti Kulhari) too don’t get as fleshed out stories as the rest. Nevertheless, the women are all a force to reckon with.
Together they seamlessly work towards empowering our nation, in a way that only Indians can. Be it making analogies about frying puris or cushion. Their quirky approach tends to simplify the gargantuan efforts our Indian lady scientists might have gone through and Mission Mangal is a layman’s perspective of what might have been…. But it works. It over simplifies but it needs to. The story needs to reach the corners of India, it needs to tweak the perspective towards women achievers in the farthest corners of India. And it effectively does.
Though there are many extremely verbose monologues by both Akshay and Vidya, the fact is that Vidya as Tara Shinde makes a very important statement in this film. One, she didn’t let Akshay Kumar overpower her in his own film, neither did she let the over simplification spoil the mood of the film.
While it is difficult to see beyond these two, Sonakshi Sinha is given the chance to showcase herself more prominently than the others. It is a pity that Taapsee Pannu gets a raw deal in this venture. But the bigger picture sure has been effectively achieved by Jagan Shakti. He has told his story and made people relate to it too. Despite the fact that the first half of the film seems scattered (as is the case with most of the multi-starrers) the second half more than makes up for it. Making Mission Mangal a perfect Independence Day watch!