Since Bollywood doesn’t do an awful lot of films on rocket science, it’s obvious that the filmmaker who’s helming one of the first films on the subject would feel the need for oversimplification.
In the Vidya Balan-Akshay Kumar starrer Mission Mangal, a feel-good entertainer, director Jagan Shakti truncates complex scientific jargon into accessible, bite-sized dialogue to ensure the viewer doesn’t get lost in the complex trajectory of India’s mission to Mars which it successfully completed its maiden attempt, a first for any country.
Featuring an ensemble cast, Mission Mangal, like the Mars mission, understands the economy of time and clocks a little over two hours, delivering a compressed chronology of how a small team of scientists from the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) fought several hurdles, both financial and moral, to send a satellite to Mars, by doing what one can be conventionally understood as jugaad.
Set at the ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru, the film’s central idea of hustling and overcoming space-sized obstacles through tact and inventiveness is massively relatable and leaves you with a satisfying, feel-good vibe although the way one reaches there could’ve been more fulfilling had the story been told with more deftness.
Akshay Kumar plays Rakesh Dhawan, the mission director who works with Vidya Balan’s Tara Shinde. Though her senior, together they lead a motley bunch of scientists that include Eka Gandh (Sonakshi Sinha), Kritika Aggarwal (Taapsee Pannu), Varsha Pillai (Nithya Menen), Kirti Kulhari as Neha Siddiqui (Kriti Kulhari), Parmeshwar Naidu (Sharman Joshi) and Ananth Iyer (H. G. Dattatreya).
In what is genuinely a relief to watch, the women in the film don’t get mansplained by Kumar and are introduced with their independent social contexts outside of their ISRO jobs. In fact, the film’s universe is rather utopian - everybody here is nice to a fault. The obstacles are purely logistical, unlike in Hidden...