On the surface, the trailer of Mission Mangal, debutant director Jagan Shakti’s perky parable on empowered women researching a trip to Mars, seems just perfect. Five self-assured beautiful women — Vidya Balan, Tapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Nithya Menon and Sonakshi Sinha play space scientists in a film that looks like Theodore Melfi’s 2015 drama Hidden Figures, brought into a vividly Indian context.
But the disturbing twist comes when these seriously empowered women need a male superstar to support their dreams. Almost every frame of the film’s trailer has Akshay Kumar sermonizing, pontificating, tutoring and envisaging… while the women merely nod and smile. Does this mean that women can do great things for themselves, but only when they have a strong male support system to bolster their dreams? If so, then we are far removed from female empowerment.
This is an awfully self-defeating premise, and one that takes the endeavour to bring forth female heroes in our cinema many steps behind. Why would a film as emboldened as it seems, push itself backwards to harness all the feminine energy with a masculine presence?
Discreet inquiries reveal that it was the production house Fox Star which insisted on putting as much of Akshay Kumar as possible in the trailer.
“So that audiences will come to see the film, and take home the story of these empowered women,” says a source regarding the strange editing of the trailer where the women clearly show up as being secondary to their male co-star.
At present, Mission Mangal looks like one (male) hero’s story with five women looking up to him for guidance. Sadly, it’s not what the film is about. Rather, it's a telling indictment of what the film industry is about....