Why does one have to move past all the logistical pitfalls and narrative lacklustreness to assess a Bollywood film? If the starting standard is itself low, how can the quality of cinema get any better for the aspiring viewer? Mission Majnu does an excellent job of creating a satisfying emotionally-heavy experience for the quintessential Bollywood consumer mollycoddled with patriotism and jingoism. While retelling the covert operation to prevent Pakistan from testing nuclear weapons is respectful and inspiring, the film falls just short of making an impact. It fails to stand out from a slew of similar-minded films and web series that have all refrained from doing one thing; straying away from the tried and tested.
One thing that Mission Majnu makes good sense of is the bitter cross-border rivalry. That anger, resentment, and cutthroat politics are established consistently in the narrative to make it more appealing. Its pace, by Bollywood standards, is frenetic but straightforward enough to follow. There are no moments when one feels the story needs to catch up, despite the sedate approach taken. When RAW chief KN Rao said that the mission was about gathering intelligence and not deploying guns and munitions, he meant every word of it. Director Shantanu Bagchi takes it to heart and carefully cascades Amandeep’s efforts to gather pieces of intel in the plot to make a meaningful waterfall that gushes with style.
The substance of his work is well integrated with the overall narrative and does not look fractured. Despite the fact that the integration is not seamless, Bagchi’s story has enough meat on the bones to last the duration. Love once again plays spoilsport in an Indian espionage drama. The genre seems to have been inflicted with a curse filmmakers cannot break free of. That romantic angle between Malhotra’s Amandeep and Rashmika’s Nasreen feels forced, unnecessary, and out of place. It clogs up the film with baggage that viewers can’t process to appreciate either character fully. The false significance mounted in the crucial moments in the film cannot change the tide.
Mission Majnu lacks nuance, although the larger toxic industry trend is to blame here. With movies of this genre especially, the spoon-feeding of cues becomes an instant nuisance. On numerous occasions, when Bagchi could have afforded to make the viewer work harder to figure out some piece of the puzzle, he gives up the idea too easily. That refinement we’ve sought for years has eluded us once more. Everything goes down just too conveniently with minor hiccups that are easily escapable. The narrative contradicts the logical realities of the dramatized circumstances, detracting from the storytelling’s realism and authenticity.
Almost no Bollywood film has come close to changing the norms and deploying cinematic conventions that espionage dramas like Munich have used outside India. Mission Majnu registers its name in that list. The frailties in execution must not be overlooked in the exuberance of emotions. Despite our sensitive and sentimental attachment to the armed forces, there is an urgent need across the board to improve the conception of these projects and make them more intense and taut through better writing and visualization.
Sidharth Malhotra lends strong physicality, charm, and warmth to Amandeep. He makes every bit of an effort to make his portrayal believable and gets several opportunities to play the innocent, jolly, patriotic tailor. It seems like the actor relishes the opportunity to switch gears once it is showtime. Malhotra gave an excellent performance in Sheershah and has maintained his action-macho hero image in Mission Majnu. He gives Amandeep enough excitement, energy, and seriousness to captivate Indian audiences. Rashmika’s shortened role does not allow her to do much. Her significance in the plot was misrepresented in the early portions of the movie. As field agents, both Mishra and Hashmi get to show off their expert blending of comedy and drama, though their characters feel shortsighted due to their bias toward the former.
Mission Majnu is not a complete disappointment. It will benefit from the euphoria instilled by films about the armed forces. However, one must approach it with moderate expectations. If you’re a regular viewer of Kathmandu or Tanaav, there’s nothing new to see here. It’s challenging to distinguish Mission Majnu from its peers, which is perhaps why the film fails to impress us.