When India’s ISRO successfully launched a probe (MOM) to the “red” planet in 2014 it made history – it was the fourth space agency to reach Mars, the first country to do so in its maiden attempt, and, it did this in a fraction of cost compared to others. I got intrigued. The movie Mission Mangal (2019) is a cinematic take on the people behind that mission which made India proud. I have been generous with my MangoIdiots rating of a “Ripe” for things the film didn’t have: including lengthy family dramas, love duets, soap opera style treacheries, and, little on the favourite punching-bag topics of incompetent Babus and corrupt Netas.
Over the decades, Hollywood has made several films where the underdogs succeed on “impossible” projects including Apollo 13 (1995) and First Man (2018). For Bollywood, this genre is new and I am glad they are coming with films like Parmanu (2018) and this one. It is easier to be bold in narrating the facts like in a documentary when most of the personalities involved have retired and much of the material have eventually been released to the public domain. Without that luxury to support them, R.Balki and Jagan Shakti have succeeded in writing an engaging screenplay about India’s Mangalyaan mission.
Though the film starts with the focus on the hero Akshay Kumar, who plays the role of a rebellious Mission Director, it is Vidya Balan, appearing as the Project Director quickly grabbing the baton and running with it to the finish line. The film is dominated by strong, intelligent and bold female characters, played well by Sonakshi Sinha, Taapsee Pannu & Kirti Kulhari. I liked that the flashbacks to all of these characters were dealt within a minute and not slowing the flow of the present timeline.
Getting a moviegoer to understand a bit about complex subjects of space science like Geocentric phase, Heliocentric phase and solar storms is not easy – here the writers have done well with their demo of turning the gas off after the cooking oil reaching the desired temperature while frying pooris. Similarly – though cliche- was the example of restarting (rebooting) a home computer. I wish they have covered more on how the team crossed many of their scientific challenges.
The film touches on a subject most will fear to even acknowledge, the religious conversions (say from Hinduism to Islam) and deals it with grace. A father is shown shouting at his young son, an aspiring musician, taking an interest in Islam, after his role model A.R.Rahman; whereas the mother character handles the same issue with dignity and respect to the boy and to the God(s). We also see the portrayal of an elderly Brahmin man welcoming and hosting his colleague, a divorced muslim lady, in his house, when the landlords in the area are reluctant to rent her a house because of her religion.
I enjoyed the many references in the film to Dr Kalam and his work, including on how a leader should handle failure and success – The mission director (played by Akshay Kumar) takes the full brunt of a failed mission and in a reverse, pushes his entire team to the limelight after a success.
Overall, a good story to watch this month.