Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Taapsee Pannu, Nithya Menen, Kirti Kulhari, Sharman Joshi, H. G. Dattatreya, Sanjay Kapoor,
Dalip Tahil, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Purab Kohli, Mohan Kapoor, Rohan Joshi, Kashmira Paradeshi
Mission Mangal is a story about a team of dedicated space scientists who believed in their dream to launch a satellite to Mars in their very first attempt. The effort was all the more commendable since it was executed with a shoestring budget of Rs 465 crore and provided with team leads of junior scientists since the jealous colleagues wanted the project to fail.
The story commences on December 25, 2010, when the Project Director in Rakesh Dhawan (Akshay Kumar) fails in their attempt to launch GSLV-F06 (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) due to the poor judgment of Tara Shinde (Vidya Balan) who's the Project Manager. On top of it, Rakesh takes the blame and is hence posted out to Mars Mission program of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) scheduled for 2022. He is provided with a dingy workplace as it's more of a punishment posting. Tara, an innovative, creative and passionate space scientist is part of the new team. And now the Mars Mission cannot take off as PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), the available technology has a payload of only 1500 kgs and enough fuel to fire the rocket cannot be carried to a distance of almost 5.5 crores km; and if GSLV has succeeded, it could have 2300 kgs payload - enough to take the satellite to Mars.
From workplace to home, Tara is married to Sunil Shinde (Sanjay Kapoor), an ever complaining hubby who's unhappy with his wife spending long working hours and not tending to the family which comprises his aspiring music composer son in Dilip Shinde (Rohan Joshi ) and partying daughter, Anya Shinde (Kashmira Pardeshi). Sunil is staying at home type and as a result, is constantly interfering in the lives of his kids. Since Tara is the only earning member of the family, the house is running of frugal budget. However, this turns as a blessing in disguise for Mars Mission as while the maid is frying Pooris complains that the LPG cylinder is gonna give up any moment. To save on whatever little gas is left, Tara suggests her to heat the oil and switch it off as the heat generated shall be enough to fry the Pooris. And the stove can be fired up again if the oil cools down. And from here germinates the idea to have an innovative, low-cost solution for the Mars mission.
The idea is latched up by Director - ISRO (Vikram Gokhale) in spite of opposition by Rupert Desai (Dalip Tahil) who plays the NASA-return scientist with a half-American half-Indian accent. However, the planned budget of Rs 800 crore is further reduced to 50% as Chandrayaan 2 Mission gobbles up most of the allocated funds and only whatever is left is allocated since the Ministry refuses to increase the annual budget. Rupert further compounds the problems for Rakesh as only junior scientists are allocated to the project. Since the majority of the team leads are women, the project gets its name - Moms Over Mars.
So we have in place 5 head-strong females each specializing in their area of expertise. Apart from Tara, there is Communication Expert, Eka Gandhi (Sonakshi Sinha) who is shown to be a kick-ass single who was brought up in an orphanage. Kritika Agarwal (Taapsee Pannu) - the Propulsion Engineer is shown married to an army officer, Rishi Agarwal (Zeeshan Ayub). Then there is Neha Siddiqui (Kirti Kulhari), who's struggling to find a decent accommodation since she is a Muslim and a divorcee. The women team is completed by Varsha Pillai (Nithya Menen), a horizontally-challenged innovative scientist and is a payload expert. She lives in a one BHK apartment with her husband Vivek Pillai ( Purab Kohli) and ever complaining mother-in-law who wants her to bear a child.
Then there are two very interesting characters, Parmeshwar Joshi (Sharma Joshi) and Ananth Iyengar (HG Dattatreya), a 59-year-old scientist on the verge of retirement. Parmeshwar is always seen running to astrologers as he is struggling to get married and is continuously irritating Eka with his overtures.
Apart from the lead team of Rakesh and Tara, all the team members are just biding their time and are not excited about the project. Tara motivates the young crew by evoking patriotism and pulls out a coup. The mission faces challenges and the team members come out with creative 'jugaads' including plastic reinforced with concrete by the structural engineer, Ananth; and switching the power off and on - like the one we all do with MS Windows to fix the communication failure.
Finally, the PSLV was launched on November 05, 2013 after some dramatic events. Later named Mangalyaan (Mars-craft from Sanskrit), the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spent about a month in Earth orbit, where it made a series of seven apogee-raising orbital maneuvers before trans-Mars injection on 30 November 2013. After a 298-day transit to Mars, it was inserted into Mars orbit on 24 September 2014. It was a moment of great joy for 17000 ISRO scientists and the core team to pull off an impossible mission. It's all the more commendable since this was India's first interplanetary mission and it made ISRO the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after Roscosmos, NASA, and the European Space Agency. It made India the first Asian nation to reach Martian orbit and the first nation in the world to do so in its maiden attempt.
The writer, Jagan Shakti who also makes his debut as a director in the movie has pulled off a great miracle with this movie. The blessings and inputs of R. Balki as Creative Director has done wonders with the film. The movie has just two songs, `Shabashiyaan` and `O Mangalam Mission Mangalam` and both of them are quite melodious. O Mangalam Mission Mangalam is indeed a very peppy number. The screenplay and editing are exceptional and it's difficult to find flaws with it. The casting has been superb and every actor has performed brilliantly though Akshay, Vidya and Taapsee stand out. With this performance, Akshay must be on cloud nine as he is certainly Bollywood's contemporary answer to Manoj Kumar of Bharat fame. He has played his character with elan and great panache. He is totally in a different league.
The subject though pretty technical and scientific in nature, the writers have done a stupendous job for the audience to understand without much ado. Even though it's a patriotic film, the creative liberties are taken by the movie makers do not in any way dent the smooth screenplay. The human and emotional angle of the lead stars makes the movie a complete package. However, the icing of the cake is certainly the humour, sarcasm and repartee. The comic timing of the dialogues aided with the use of fine kinesics, this movie is a family entertainer.
This movie is a perfect tribute to ISRO since it came into being exactly 50 years ago on 15th August 1969. It reminds us of Herculean efforts of Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Chander Dhawan, APJ Abdul Kalam and UG Rao to make India one of the great superpowers of space.
This movie deserves 5 stars but for the end credits which are certainly politicized to favour a particular political establishment. So snatching half a star is just apt to make it a movie of 4 and a half star rating. Go watch this great movie. especially with the kids.