HYDERABAD: In case you are wondering why a new patriotic film targeting Pakistan is not making the required noise, the reason is not too far to seek: it eschews the high-voltage chest beat paradigm. Largely sober, this thriller simply fails to be engrossing. As ever the languid build-up and the hurried climax are imbalanced. This is but a contributory factor.
‘Mission Majnu’ takes us to the 1970s, the Pokhran nuclear test by India in the desert sands of Rajasthan, the emergency under Mrs G. followed by the Morarji Desai government which in the narration went soft on the neighbour. Against the backdrop of Bhutto taking a global stance against India joining the nuclear club, the threat that they would eat grass if necessary but would go nuclear, the military junta proceeding secretively to build nuclear energy and a covert operation by India’s RAW to locate the nuclear hideout is what ‘Mission Majnu’ pans out to be.
Tariq (Sidharth Malhotra) a local tailor is eager to work as a tailor who stitches clothes for the military and falls in love with the daughter of the master tailor. The girl in question Nasreen (Rashmika Mandanna) is visually challenged and has a parent with a needless attitude in Rasool (Salim Fatehi) who for inexplicable reasons is against the marriage.
Without much ado, however, the nikah is done. The sketchy script does not deal with how the local parents of Tariq come to be his family. While in the frontal narrative, the young couple is hunky dory and living the blues of young marriage amidst economic challenges, our hero is also the Indian mole on foreign soil. His job is to find the locale where the Pakistan government is trying its nuclear experiments. He is assisted in this task by a tea stall owner Abdul Qadeer(Mir Sarwaan) and Maulvi ji ( Kumud Mishra - the go-to actor when a side role is of consequence).
The dilemma of the protagonist being in love with a woman in the enemy country and naïve and blind literally is to add to the conflict in the mental space of the undercover agent. He carries further baggage as his father is dubbed a traitor to the country. In the armed services, he is required to touch base with Sharma (Zakir Hussain) who spits venom at him whenever he interacts with the cross-border informant. This personal hatred too is half-baked and unexplained.
The relationship between the three - Tariq, Maulvi and Abdul Qader caught on foreign soil and sharing a hard-core faith in the nation of their origin as undercovers displays no major chemistry. This is another major drawback.
Credible performances from Avantika Akerkar (as Indira Gandhi) Avijit Dutt (as Morarji) Ashwath Bhat as Zia-ul-haq, and Rajat Kapur as Bhutto add some meat to the script. The film lacks even the fundamental thrills that go with a spy story and not a weak echo is heard in the cross-border espionage drama.
What saves the film is the fact that there ain’t much jingoism associated with this kind of cinema. Sidharth Malhotra tries hard and is sincere but goes into the film with a shoulder a tad too weak to carry the sketchy script along. Rashmika Mandanna has no clue about how to be a blind person. To her, it is a blinder.
This mission in terms of the tale told is about India being successful in calling the bluff and catching the neighbour in its tracks but at the Box Office and in terms of keeping the viewer engaged this is a major failure and the filmmaker (Shantanu Bagchi) will have to take the entire blame....