Mission Mangal does justice to one of the most influential and eye-opening achievements in the history of space research.
Rakesh Dhawan (Akshay Kumar) and Tara Shinde (Vidya Balan), the lead scientists supervising India’s historic Mars mission, have taken inspiration from home science, managed to get the necessary approvals and the resources, and incorporated everything in the rocket science that they know so well. Mission Mangal (Mission Mars) is Director Jagan Shakti’s ambitious and meticulously written project that not just feels sweet but also tastes bitter. Jagan knows that we are apprehensive of the fact that the success of Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission) drawn accolades from the entire globe and we may have doubts whether the film will resort to more of glorification than the struggles. Jagan makes sure that Mission Mangal is not that sort of a film. He lends it an equal share of both the moments where we don’t just feel dejected by the failures, embarrassments and difficulties but also feel proud and rejoice over the triumphs.
There is ‘hope’ in the background music (composed by Amit Trivedi) as it perfectly enhances the spirit of being alive in the mission. You feel astonished by the intelligence of the scientists in whom, amidst every other obstacle, sparks innovative ideas while cooking Puri or looking at people protesting against plastic dumps in the ocean or even while staring at a picture of sailing craft on a throw pillow. When you think about India and its space programs, the very first name that may come to your mind is Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. The film does honour him. And when it does, it may give you goosebumps. Even the close shots of the rocket when it is being set up on the launch site or smoke engulfing a part of it or the hopeful faces of scientists were so brilliantly shown (All credits to the cinematographer Ravi Varman).
Akshay gives the mixture of seriousness, staying-calm-under-pressure and mirthfulness to Rakesh’s character. But it’s the hilarity that works so well. In a humorous scene, he calmly enters inside a poorly maintained building, calls it Mars, finds the availability of little water and even claims the presence of life. He even asks a guy to place a television over his head. And when a guy asks Rakesh if this is Mars department, he says, “Hum bhi yahi soch ke khade hain” (We are also standing here thinking the same). Also watch out for Akshay’s Tamil-language speaking skills in the film.
The women in this movie always take the centre stage and are as much an important part of the film as the real women scientists were for the success of this Mars mission (You also have to appreciate the wonderful ensemble cast with each of them raising the bar higher when it comes to performance). You are also not alien to the personal lives of these characters. You do care about them. Outside of this mission, they have their own problems to take care of. You root for Eka Gandhi (Sonakshi Sinha) and her colleague Parmeshwar (Sharman Joshi) to be together. Tara’s amazing calmness while managing her husband, son and daughter speak volumes of Vidya Balan’s stupendous act. The sadness and disappointment in Varsha (Nithya Menen) are noticeable when her mother-in-law angrily scolds her for not getting pregnant. The driving lessons taken by Kritika (Taapsee Pannu) are chucklesome. You feel the agony of Neha (Kirti Kulhari) when she is denied a house for rent as she is a Muslim (While there is a work going on to find habitable planets in the space, some of us belonging to the ‘most intelligent’ species on Earth still follow a divisive design).
Of course, there is always someone who tries to close all the doors and be pessimistic about everything. There is Rupert (Dalip Tahil) in this film to do that. Dalip fantastically lends that villainous feel to this Rupert character. But the determination of Tara and a ‘change’ in the attitude of the scientists (one of the loveliest sequence where scientists realise why they chose to be in the field of science in the first place) ultimately spell the victory. Well, the film could have done without a weird fight sequence inside a train or a scientists-jovially-dancing-to-the-tune-of-a-song (Probably, the only two things that didn’t work for me). But, other than that, the film does justice to one of the most influential and eye-opening achievements in the history of space research.