A Survival Thriller

Mili is the official Hindi remake of the award-winning Malayalam film, Helen, both of which are directed by Mathukutty Xavier. I have not seen the original movie, so, my review will only evaluate the remake and not compare the two versions.

Mili is produced by Boney Kapoor and Zee Studios and is currently available on Netflix.

Mathukutty Xavier wanted to make a survival-thriller as he felt there weren’t enough in that genre in the Malayalam film industry. Helen was inspired by a real event.  Xavier spoke to several people who had lived through the experience of being stuck in a freezer and did his research on commercial meat freezers. Helen won several awards, including the National Film Awards for Best Debut Film of a Director and best Make-up Artist (Ranjith Ambady). In August 2020, Boney Kapoor acquired the rights for the Hindi remake.

A Tale of Bravery and Relationships

As is the case with many survival-thriller movies, the basic premise is simple. Mili Naudiyal (Janhvi Kapoor) a nursing graduate who attends IELTS coaching classes, also works part-time at a fast-food restaurant in a big mall. She lives with her father Niranjan Naudiyal (Manoj Pahwa), and is planning to move to Canada for better career prospects.

Mili is in a relationship with Sameer Kumar (Sunny Kaushal) which she keeps secret from her father because Sameer is still looking for a job.

One night, while he’s dropping Mili off at home, the police stop Sameer for drunk driving. They take the pair to the police station and call Niranjan. Sub Inspector Satish Rawat (Anurag Arora) is rude to Niranjan and Sameer. Angry at his daughter, Niranjan ignores her attempts to speak to him.

The next night, due to a minor lapse in communication, Mili gets stuck inside a commercial meat freezer. The rest of the film deals with her desperate attempts to stay alive in below freezing temperatures, while Niranjan and Sameer search for her.

Janhvi Kapoor in Mili (image:IMDB)

Better Than Expected

I did not go into the movie with high expectations as I had heard mixed reviews. But I was pleasantly surprised. Manoj Pahwa is an actor who can completely transform himself – whether an evil, devious cop from Article 15, the resentful son in Ramprasad ki Terhvi, or the wonderful father in Mili. He doesn’t miss a step. Pahwa effortlessly portrays a father’s love, protectiveness, worry, desperation, and fear for his daughter.

Mili and her Niranjan (image: IMDB)

Sunny Kaushal is sincere and shows great promise. Anurag Arora, in a surprising but fun cameo, was convincing as the petty cop on a power trip. Sanjay Suri as Inspector Ravi Prasad is adequate, but Vikram Kocchar as Sudheer Malkoti, Mili’s manager, made me laugh. Most of us are familiar with that one boss who is desperate to get his team’s respect but fails spectacularly.

When It Works

The movie rests on Janhvi Kapoor and she delivers an authentic performance, playing Mili as a sweet, charming and simple girl, laser focused on her future and who shares a beautiful relationship with her father.

Kapoor plays Mili with conviction, especially in her scenes in the freezer as her skin deteriorates. But she falters in her diction and dialogue delivery, which matter little, because being stuck in the freezer for most of the movie, Kapoor luckily, has very little to say. But Kapoor shows that in the hands of the right director, she can deliver a decent performance.

Ranjith Ambady, retained as the make-up artist from the original movie was a wise choice – Mili’s slowly cracking skin was realistic and rather uncomfortable to watch.

Mili’s skin begins to crack in the freezer (image: IMDB)

The film features superb music by A.R.Rahman and beautiful lyrics by Javed Akhtar, as seen in the powerful song ‘Jeena Hoga’ sung by Vishal Mishra.

There were some original touches that I particularly enjoyed – the humming music that plays when the tension mounts, the way a rat becomes a character and especially, the opening sequence, during which the song ‘Tum Bhi Raahi’ plays as an ant runs across various surfaces, before finally freezing in the ice tray. This was foreshadowing done right.

When It Does Not

I understand that the director, Mathukutty, wanted to take his time in establishing the characters and their relationships. While I enjoyed his depiction of the father-daughter bond, some might find it slow-paced. To me, the scene with Seema Pahwa seemed unnecessary.

My biggest issue with the film, though, is the one-dimensional character of Anurag Arora’s cop, though I must clarify that the actor did a great job. Why would he be willing to let someone die, just to satiate his ego? Maybe people like that exist, but the cop’s grudge towards Mili and Sameer was not believable enough to justify his actions.

A movie like this requires edge- of-the-seat tension, but Mili doesn’t deliver on that front.

Overall, Mili is enjoyable and if, like me, you are unfamiliar with the original film, you will not regret spending the 127 minutes watching it. I rate it a decent 3.5/5 stars.

Aindrila Roy is a stay-at-home mom with her fingers in many pies. She writes, reads, makes jewelry, sings, dances and is a huge Paleontology nerd. Her book, I See You, was self-published on Amazon. She...