Movie Review | Mili takes too much time to arrive at the crux of the story

By DECCAN CHRONICLE | L. Ravichander

5 November 2022

It is always a challenge to make the move from a Malayalam film to mainstream Bollywood where cinematic compromise is the middle name. After having replicated the original 'Helen' in yet another South Indian language, one would have expected Mathukutty Xavier to come up with a crisp product. Unfortunately, that is not to be. For a good half hour of the tedious survival thriller, you make do with a family tale that suits Sooraj Bharjatiya more than the thriller for which the ticket investment has been made. Then, Xavier sharply changes gear. From this point the script almost adorns a different avatar. Notwithstanding the cliché moments, the story moves on expected lines and tries hard to keep working within the stated premise.

A thriller, more so a survival thriller, must work within the constraints of the many limitations of the genre. Given a looming disaster like ‘The Titanic’ for the number of victims or space like in ‘Life of Pi’; space, time, characters are moving space. In contrast if it were like in ‘Helen’ a freezer room — a back-end supply room of a fast-food restaurant, like the kidnapper’s den - a long narrative is bound to make one claustrophobic. Xavier manages to run the narrative on two parallels: one the victim fighting to survive and the other the rest of the cast adding to the story.

The film, for a thriller, spends just too much time before arriving at the crux of the story.

Mili (Janhvi Kapoor) working in a fast-food centre gets trapped in the cold storage room for a night with no exit options and no assistance whatsoever. What are the challenges and, surely since this is a mainstream offering, how she overcomes them is what the film is about. The film would have been gripping had it been packaged in 90 minutes. But our filmy semantics read to a different percussionist. The film must last more than a couple of hours. It must project the protagonist, nay the victim, in multiple hues, all competing glows!! In the process of catering to “varied tastes” we must settle for multiple sentiments. The creative artist enjoys the melody of the death-knell of quality. No worries. Money is what matters.

Let us sample the study on hand: Mili is matroning her indulgent dad Nadiyal (Manoj Pahwa) who is smoking and boozing and saying goodbye to good health. He invariably manages to hoodwink Mili when she keeps a strict vigil on Dad. She is seeing Sameer (Sunny Kaushal) on the sly. Hell breaks loose one night when Nadiyal is summoned to a police station by moral and legal police officer Satish (Anurag Arora).

Dad is shocked out of his wits and disappointed. Even as a cold war is brewing on the domestic front, there is another between Sameer and Mili, who also has to combat an irritating, careless boss Sudheer (Vikram Kochhar).

All these props are created to build and establish Mili, which in the context of a survival thriller is irrelevant. Xavier having tailored the award-winning original in Malayalam obviously replicates with exactitude. He could well have chopped liberally or not shot at all.

The needless preface to the survival challenge is counter-productive. Sometimes you feel like walking out to just enquire as to whether anything fruitful happened in the context of the film when you were out.

The drama of being trapped in a room where the temperature varies from -12º Centigrade to -16ºC and the challenges of having to share a room with an inquisitive rodent for company is laid with a story of a father-daughter relationship, the mandatory romance and the good cop-bad cop contrast.

Performances from Sunny Kaushal, Manoj Pahwa and Anurag Arora add value to the film. Every time it is slipping, one of the three or a combination helps get the script back on track. Special mention must be made about Kaushal. Welcome to the talent club.

The central character is Jahnvi. No marks for guessing how she got the plum role. She keeps you engaged. Just engaged. Many contemporary actors would have enhanced the role to an award-winning performance and not let go of the opportunity as a trophy from Dad. That unfortunately is where Mili fails, apart from the large chunks that escaped the strict scrutiny of the editor.

Mili is at best a “go for if nothing else” film.

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