Banners: Cape of Good Films, Hope Productions, Fox Star Studios
Producers: Cape of Good Films, R Balki, Fox Star Studios
Director: Jagan Shakti
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Taapsee Pannu, Sharman Joshi, Nithya Menen, Kirti Kulhari Sehgal, HG Dattatreya, Vikram Gokhale, Dalip Tahil, Sanjay Kapoor, Purab Kohli, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub
Writers: Jagan Shakti (Story), R Balki, Nidhi Singh Dharma, Saketh Kondiparthi
Music: Amit Trivedi
When we think of movies made about space, it has always been Hollywood movies that come to mind; Apollo 13, The Martian, Gravity… to name a few. Though Mission Mangal is different from these movies as it is more about sending a satellite to space while, the aforementioned movies are about humans in space, there is a common thread that binds them. They are all inherently human stories, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and emerging victorious.
Within the first few minutes of the film we are introduced to two of ISRO’s lead scientists Rakesh Dhawan and Tara Shinde. The year is 2010 and they are working on the launch of GSLV Fat Boy. While things seem to go as planned, some technical issues result in the mission being aborted and the rocket is set to self-destruct. Rakesh takes responsibility for the failure. As a result he is shifted from the Chandrayan 2 mission to the almost defunct Mars mission of ISRO and a former NASA scientist, Rupert is brought on board for the ongoing Chandrayan 2 program.
Though disappointed at first, it is Tara who suggests to Rakesh that they should send a satellite to Mars when she finds out that America is planning a Mars mission. At first he is sceptical, but Tara’s enthusiasm and ideas get the better of him and he requests the ISRO chief to give the go ahead. Luckily for Rakesh, he agrees and asks for a project plan. For such a huge mission, a top team is needed, but Rupert assigns ‘second-level’ scientists. Thus Eka Gandhi, Kritika Agarwal, Varsha Pillai, Neha Siddiqui, Parmeshwar Joshi and a nearing retirement Ananth Iyengar come on board.
At first none of them believe in the dream that Rakesh and Tara are nurturing, but slowly and steadily they realise how big and important this mission is for the country. On the one hand getting these scientists to play for the same side is a challenge and on the other hand, budgetary constraints from ISRO result in the cost of the mission cut to half. But then nothing stops the MOM – Mars Orbiter Mission, which is later christened as Mangalyaan. Each of the women has their share of personal problems but they overcome everything to do their duty and successfully put the satellite on the Mars orbit.
What works in favour of Mission Mangal is the simplicity in the story telling. It is indeed an extraordinary story, almost an unbelievable one, of ordinary people. Jagan Shakti and his team of writers which also includes R Balki, have managed to keep the science very basic. At no point does the jargon overwhelm you. Using simple household examples, complex space terms are explained in an entertaining way. It is an emotional human story all the way with family drama, a little bit of romance, comedy and even some dance and action thrown in.
Not only is the story beautiful, the film looks also amazing. Kudos to the technical team for doing such a wonderful job. Ravi Varman’s camera work is top notch. He captures the homes of the women with such softness and at the same time there is a certain serious feel when we are inside ISRO. Sandeep Ravade’s production design needs special mention. The amount of detail that has gone into creating the rockets, the satellite and every single item inside ISRO is phenomenal. At no point do you feel that you are not inside a mission control room or a space centre. The film also has its share of VFX and credit must be given that it has been done and executed well. Editing is slick and Amit Trivedi’s music is pleasant.
But everything is not perfect on this ‘mission’. A scene or two and a song that could have been left out. Though the film gives us a peek into the lives of the women, we are left to wonder who Rakesh Dhawan is and what his back story is. But when you look at the larger picture, these are minor flaws.
The driving force of the film is its cast. Akshay Kumar as Rakesh Dhawan and Vidya Balan as Tara Shinde lead the film with their amazing presence and on screen chemistry. Though they are not romantically paired, every time they come on screen together, they bring a smile to your face. Akshay does a wonderful job of not just underplaying his part but also bringing in some great comic moments. Vidya gets under the skin of her character with such ease that you start believing that she is indeed an ISRO scientist who is also a homemaker, a mother and a wife. Sonakshi Sinha as Eka Gandhi does a good job. She is bold, ambitious and unapologetic. Sharman Joshi as Parmeshwar Joshi proves that he is such an underrated actor. He has some really funny and sweet moments with Sonakshi in the film. Taapsee Pannu as Kritika Agarwal does a good job. She has an emotional scene in the film in which she excels and how! Kirti Kulhari Sehgal as Neha Siddqui plays her part well. Nithya Menen who makes her Bollywood debut is a treat to watch. As Varsha Pillai she brings vulnerability and strength to her character. HG Dattatreya as Ananth Iyengar brings dignity and class to his act.
Rest of the cast which includes Vikram Gokhale, Dalip Tahil, Sanjay Kapoor and cameo appearances by Purab Kohli and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub does a good job in making this film a super enjoyable experience.