Mission Mangal was the right movie, on the right day.
What better way to celebrate India’s Independence Day, than by saluting the team of scientists at ISRO, mainly women, who were responsible for India being the first country in the world to reach Martian orbit?
Sure, Mission Mangal may not be the best-made movie and maybe a few facts are distorted. But it is a feel-good film, made with the best intentions and the audience as a whole, in a quiet, dark theatre in Abu Dhabi, stood up and clapped heartily, as the credits rolled.
While Akshay Kumar is thoda-too-much filmy, but still sweet, it is Vidya Balan who impresses. I confess that I was not a fan of her over-the-top, giggly performance in Tumhari Sullu, but in Mission Mangal, she is real, strong, believable and so natural, as the passionate scientist, who juggles several roles — mom, wife of a nagging husband and who finds inspiration from pooris being fried in the kitchen!
Nithya Menon, Sonakshi Sinh, Kirti Kulhari and Tapsee Panu, make up the strong female team, each of them with their own story lines.
Watch Mission Mangal, to remember ISRO’s achievement and applaud the women scientists who were an integral part of the team.
Despite its many flaws, Mission Mangal made me happy!
Mission Mangal (2019). Director: Jagan Shakti. Writers: R. Balki and Riturraj Tripathii. Players: Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Taapsee Pannu, Nithya Menen and Sharman Joshi. Music: Amit Trivedi; Tanishk Bagchi. Theatrical release: Cape of Good Films, Fox STAR Studios and Hope Pictures.
Uma Kaushik is an aspiring writer and blog-wati with a passion for the world of movies. The only thing better than the cinematic experience, she says, is the pleasure of foisting opinions on an unsuspecting public!
“I am honored and humbled to portray Havaldar Ishar Singh. He had an important role in the history of India. I’m lucky to have the privilege of portraying this incredible Sikh in my lifetime.” The Khiladi (player) of Bollywood, Akshay Kumar, continues his affair with social and realistic dramas with his latest offering, Kesari. He also returns to action with his first war drama. Wearing the pagadi (head gear) gave him a sense of pride and responsibility.
Never heard of Havaldar Ishar Singh? Or the Battle of Saragarhi? “It was a battle that was truly forgotten, if not erased from our history,” says Akshay. “The story of the bravest battle ever fought in history. It depicts the bravery, values and valiance of the Sikh regiment.” Havaldar Ishar Singh led the British Indian contingency of 21 Sikh Soldiers to protect the army post at Sargarhi. The Battle of Saragarhi was fought against 10,000-12,000 Afghani invaders in 18th century India.
Despite being a pro in action, the 51-year-old actor admits it was quite challenging to shoot the movie. “I shot with my heavy turban in unbearable weather conditions, in Mumbai heat and the low altitude of Spiti. It was a grueling schedule, with a lot of intense action sequences as it had to look real. In the end, watching the film and the scenic locations, it was so worth it.”
About director Anurag Singh, who moved successfully from Punjabi to Hindi cinema (Kesari is his second), Akshay says, “He has amazing clarity in what he wants and is relentless in achieving it, no matter what. And he has a pure heart. He stayed true to the story and is one of the best directors I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”
As a superstar and actor, Akshay’s journey has been admirable. He started with passable acting skills, but has been learning and staying admirably true to his craft. He has also succeeded in staying relevant and balanced stardom with creativity quite easily. Akshay strived to pick fresh subjects throughout his career, moving from action to comedy to romance and in recent years, to the real-life genre. Last year, the actor had three releases, the brave sanitary napkin tale Pad Man, the sports chapter Gold and the villainous venture with Rajnikanth 2.0.
With Kesari, he forays into the war genre to a story that needs to be heard and experienced for all its wonders. “I genuinely feel the audience will connect with every scene and character. This film is extremely special and close to my heart. I’m very emotional about it — it’s my dedication to all the martyrs back then and even now who keep fighting for our country, our Bharat Ke Veer,” he says.
Looking back at his own career spanning just over 27 years, Akshay says, “I think I’ve done well enough to make my parents proud. They believed in me when I wanted to concentrate on sports, then in martial arts and eventually movies. At every step, they encouraged me and my sole aim was to show them they were right in doing so. Today, when I look back, I can say I didn’t let them down.”
Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.
This article was edited by India Currents Culture and Media Editor, Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D.
It’s 1959 all over again! In Hollywood, the 1959 classic Ben Hur remake got a wide release at about the same time as Rustom, which is based on a sensational true life high society murder case set in what was then Bombay. While Ben Hur recreates Roman era chariot racing, Rustom opts for slightly more sedate pacing. And what pace it is! Served up as a polished period piece thriller mindful of socio-economic realities and sensibilities of that era, Rustom is a sumptuous reenactment of a tangled murder mystery.
A decade after Independence, India had fully come of age and a free press was thriving. A murder that would normally go unnoticed captures the popular imagination because the principal figures involved are very wealthy, belonging to the upper crust of society. The accused is Commander Rustom Pavri, (Kumar) a highly decorated officer with the Indian navy. Returning home from an extended stint out at sea, Rustom discovers an affair between his wife Cynthia Pavri (D’Cruz) and the couple’s long-time friend Vikram Makhija (Bajwa). What exactly happened before, during and after three famed gunshots that killed Makhija at his palatial home might as well have been three shots heard around the world.
This entire framework would fall flat on its face if not for Santosh Thundiyil’s excellent cinematography that places Rustom and Cynthia smack in the middle of society ball rooms or Rustom at shipside on the high seas. Color filters create a mood of intrigue in the navy parlors where a behind-the-scenes high stakes arms race to acquire India’s first aircraft carrier is played out as a tangent to the main narrative. The sets come alive to inject a dose of realistic make-believe. Just don’t look too far into the distance or a computer-generated period auto rickshaw may pop up out of thin air.
The real life 1959 case had massive implications for India’s legal system. Amazingly, the original case became the very last Indian court case tried by a jury. After this case played out, India did away with jury trials in favor of a sole judge or a small group of judges deciding all cases, including capital murder. And small wonder. The sensation created by the case and its hold on the popular press at a time when the jury had full access to all media while the trial was ongoing, effectively meant that the verdict was issued by the tabloids long before the case went to the jury.
The pudgy paparazzi Billimoria (Mishra) prints anything and everything to create a line of “reasoning” that will sell more papers. His playbook includes baiting ethnicity into the case. The Pavris like Billimoria and his media barons are from the Parsi community, while the murder victim is from the Sindhi community. There is also the maid Jamnabai (Nadkarni) whose loose lips could just about sink ships. Preeti Makhija (Gupta), the murder victim’s conniving sister, meanwhile, is up to no good at all. It is up to the chief police investigator Vincent Lobo (Malhotra) to read through the tarot cards of evidence that don’t seem to add up.
As a cuckold decorated navy officer in sailor whites, Kumar comes across as a wronged man numbed by court proceedings—in other words, a victim. Strangely, the empathy factor swings away from him, and we feel more for D’Cruz who plays the anguished wife fending loneliness. In roles where the social stigma of adultery burns heavier on her than murder does on him, D’Cruz manages to keep tears to a minimum, and she is restrained in her portrayal.
Desai’s Rustom is not the first feature based on the famed original case. R.K. Nayyar’s Yeh Raste Hai Pyar Ke (1963) with Sunil Dutt and Leela Naidu and Gulzar’s Achanak (1973) with Vinod Khanna and Lily Chakravarty both touched on this story. As a time capsule with critical and box office validation however,Rustom breaks refreshing new ground. Three gun shots, three figures and a two and a half hour big screen joyride. We are guilty as charged, my Lord!