Rohon Nag
  • 3/5
This mission doesnt soar!
[contains spoilers]

Mission Mangal, a depiction of India impossible achievement. Or is it?

From the trailers I knew since this is an Akshay Kumar vehicle, it will be low on facts and high on emotions. I was wrong. SO wrong. It’s NOT at all that.

It’s a VIDYA Balan vehicle, which is high on emotion with some minor sprinkling of facts.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine film. It is well made, entertaining and if this was a fictional story (like Antariksham 9000 KMPH), I would have given it a high 8 or 9.

However, this film is based on something we (Indians and more specifically ISRO) have already achieved in real life. The film’s main protagonists are Akshay and Vidya and the antagonist is an ex-NASA dude portrayed by Dalip Tahil. So what if such a person doesn’t exist in real life. Doesn’t matter, to make a fun film we need villains! We can’t make circumstances or the limitations of technology the villain. NO SIR, We need a half-firangi type telling us how much better NASA is…

Coming to that point, they portray the Mission Mars team as a bunch of newbies and under dogs who magically through home science make this mission possible. It’s like they decided to spit in the face of ISRO’s very REAL and VERY VERY brilliant scientists who made the impossible, possible.

Sorry, the Mars team never started in a run-down warehouse with noobs as project heads. I don’t mind a bit of fictionalization, but they have made our brilliant scientists look like morons who depend on strange poori bhaji inspiration to plan the mission.

It sounds like I didn’t like the film, which is true, I really disliked the first half!

The film starts with a huge failure to give dramatic tension to the start of the film, but in real life NO SUCH failure occurred! Then the screenplay proceeds to pull everything down, from the budget allocation to role of the ISRO leadership who are shown as a bunch of nitwits who get convinced and cajoled by our Akshay bhai into letting him allocate chandrayaan 2’s budget to his mars mission.

Its ok for R Balki to take the very real achievements of Arunachalam Muruganantham India’s Padman and make him a north Indian with wife issues, but this takes it to a WHOLE new level. This film shows that all of India’s ISRO scientists work on emotion, one happy birthday cake reminds them of why they want to be scientist in the first place and they get inspirations from sailboats and innovate while driving through traffic!

Point being, if you want a light hearted entertainer, this is a great film to watch. It’s high on country wala love but gives very little love to the actual science that got us there. That is not to say the very little technical stuff they DO thrown in as an afterthought is not factually correct. It is. But they pay so much less attention to technical stuff, such as the sensors, the actual propulsion engine on the probe, it all revolves around the characters and their home lives. They never even show the actual building of the probe, the issues faced while manufacturing, coz we have desi scientist who are caught up in their personal drama!

Coming to the desi scientists shown in the film, there are way too many characters and they are not able to play to anyone’s strengths. A LOT of time is wasted showing Vidya Balan’s family with ZERO pay off in the end. How can there be any pay off anyway? It’s about mission to mars, not how the lady managed her household post the mars mission! Rest of the actresses have been given ONE single plot line which go nowhere. This is the problem of focusing on their personal lives rather than their technical ones. Tapsee has an injured soldier as a husband, again adding exactly ZERO to the story. One lady is going through IVF so that they can get that sweet IVF AD cash! Rest of the characters are just as one dimensional! Sonakshi plays a character who wants to goto NASA by filling up a form. HUH? NASA only takes American citizens or Green Card holders! I feel the film makers got confused between getting into NASA and getting into an American college! Sharman Joshi is shown as an over grown man-child who is a virgin, his only defining characteristic is that he is a virgin! They don’t even bother to show HOW he solves his part of the technical challenge of fitting in all the sensors in a single lens! In reality somehow our brilliant minds DID achieve this, why was it so hard to show any of those things?

To me one of the BEST scenes in the film was when Askhay’s character shows pic of how India launched its first rocket, taken on the backs of cycles and bullock carts (its real). APJ Abdul Kalam was the man who made that possible. I clapped in the scene. I wished the entire film was like that. Showing the REAL story of how we got to mars rather than this soppy mess.

Not be the Dalip Tahil here who keeps praising NASA, but the series ‘From Earth to the Moon’ (I know it’s a 12 episode series) was entirely factual based docudrama. But what do we Indians get after we did something EVEN more magnificent than NASA, we get a fictional drama with soppiness, crying, singing and dancing. Something which if the REAL ISRO people see, will slap their head and laugh at stupidity of Bollywood.

That is why I was thoroughly dissatisfied with the first half. The second half has a wee bit more technicality. The ending is very science based and that part of the film, I did like a bit more.

It’s not that I hated the film, I am actually recommending the film because if you haven’t seen the documentaries about how we got to Mars, this film has some sprinkling of facts and is well made soap opera style rendition of the mission to mars. They even have a catchy tune called mangal mangal to get the scientists up and painting (yes… they have to paint their own offices, coz India so poor).

To be honest, by the end I had tears in my eyes. But those tears were not due to something the characters did or said or the great screenplay. But it was when they showed the REAL people who achieved the real thing without any of these emotional gimmicks or silly shortcuts. Heck I teared up by just seeing the documentary on the subject. While I know that a Hindi Bollywood film cannot be a docudrama and be commercially successful, but it can be more technically driven when the subject matter is all about science and our (India’s) brilliance at it.

Rating : 6.5/10. As I said, as a purely Bollywood film its pretty good. Its hilarious, funny and entertaining. The people who had NO CLUE of India’s success in Space (there are many such people) will at least see this film and come to know what we have already achieved in 2013.

Conclusion: I hope someday Indian cinema will make a film about space, which will inspire young people watching it, to become a scientist someday. All this film can hope to achieve (other than box office money) is to inspire filmmakers to make better cinema. To marry screenplay and technicalities while still making it entertaining!

P.S : The Acting! How can I forget the acting! Akshay is GREAT! I am a huge fan of his recent renaissance. Vidya Balan is really good as a mother of 2 and project leader on the MOM mission!

On a side note, I like her now that she is fat and not trying to be a heroine but an actress. Suit her well… Both the weight and the gravity it brings to her acting – HEY! Had to crack atleast one science joke! Come on now!

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