'Mission Mangal' review: Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan propel Bollywood's mission to Mars
The movie might be guilty of 'oversimplyfying' science, but it has its heart in the right place
What does frying pooris with the gas switched off have to do with sending a satellite to Mars? What does Kapil Dev leading the 1983 Indian cricket team to World Cup victory have to do with India's space mission?
The constant comparisons between cooking, cricket and India's space programme can at times seem tedious in Mission Mangal, but if science was your weakest subject in school, take heart, this movie can seriously give you aspirations of topping your class!
Based on the events surrounding the launch of India's first satellite to Mars in 2013/2014, Mission Mangal could at worst be held guilty of oversimplifying Mangalyaan or the Mars Orbitor Mission that showcased ISRO's (Indian Space Research Organisation) prowess in space science, but nobody can dispute that the movie has its heart in the right place.
Directed by Jagan Shakti (he assisted R Balki on the sets of Paa), Mission Mangal stars Akshay Kumar as an eccentric Mission Leader Rakesh Dhawan, whose motley crew is made up of heavy-duty actors like Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Nithya Menen, Kirti Kulhari, Sharman Joshi and H G Dattatreya.
The film is a celebration of India's achievement in space programme even as it dramatises the events leading to the launch of Mangalyaan. There are some unnecessary song sequences, specially one in which the women are shown taking up brooms to clear out their office space but thankfully the storyline progresses as well in the background.
The women are all given solid backgrounds, which helps us relate to them better, even though some of them seem typecast. Sonakshi is Eka Gandhi, the 'promiscuous' single woman with dreams of joining NASA, Kirti plays Neha Siddique, a divorced Muslim woman who finds it difficult to rent space in a big city like Bangalore; Nithya is Varsha Gowda, who turns to IVF after constant taunts from her mother-in-law for not being able to bear a child despite being such a hotshot scientist and Taapsee is Kritika Aggarwal, who leaves her teammates without a word when her husband is injured while on duty. But together they portray the strong, middle class Indian woman who is able to balance her household chores with a demanding job as an ISRO scientist. We particularly love Vidya's character, Project Director, Tara Shinde, who is unapologetically career minded and gives it back to her husband for trying to make her feel guilty for 'ignoring' her children for her work. Vidya brings a certain sincerity and earnestness to her role that elevates her from being just another scientist at Isro.
Kudos to Akshay Kumar, Bollywood's resident patriot, for taking on stories and issues that might not seem 'popular' and enhancing it with his own brand of glamour.
The movie could not have been released at a better date - with national pride at an all time high, Mission Mangal is a great watch if you want to celebrate India's space achievements, even if Akshay Kumar and his team give it a typical Bollywood treatment. firstname.lastname@example.org
Movie: Mission Mangal
Director: Jagan Shakti
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Nithya Menen, Kirti Kulhari, Sharman Joshi, H.G. Dattatraya, Dalip Tahil
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars