Finally Watched Mission Mangal: A Review | Engaging but Inaccurate
Aerospace Engineer writes the review for the Bollywood movie Mission Mangal loosely based on ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission (2013).
I have been stalling to watch Mission Mangal ever since I watched the trailer on July 20th 2019. While I admire Bollywood to have finally made a movie on the Indian Space Programme, many mistakes and scientific inaccuracies in the trailer itself prevented me from taking the leap. Finally, after completing my Post Graduation, I decided to watch and write Mission Mangal review for the blog.
This article won't point out all the mistakes and inaccuracies but a first cut review of the overall movie with a few unique things I liked. This is my first time reviewing a film, so be considerate. While I doubt anyone can ruin this movie with spoilers, still a disclaimer: SPOILERS AHEAD.
Tara Shinde (Vidya Balan) starts one of the most important days of her life with her domestic help taking a leave and leaving her to take care of everything at home. We then cut to the GSLV 'Fat Boy' first launch. Tara overrides a warning in the propulsion system resulting in the failure of the rocket. But going with the ISRO leadership tradition the Mission Director Rakesh Dhawan (Akshay Kumar) takes the responsibility. Following an enquiry, Rakesh is shifted to Mars Department, which is a lost cause as considered by the agency. Rakesh is distraught and feels all his life dedicated to space has come to an end.
I have to admit, Bollywood knows how to make the audience involved in the movie. Akshay's Rakesh Dhawan makes us root for him. To add to the tragedy of Rakesh, a scientist from NASA, Ruper Desai (Dalip Tahil) takes over the critical missions. While imagined as the negative, Desai just points out flaws and keeps negating everything Mars Department tasks.
Bollywood adds all the drama right here. Mars department building is a dingy one-storey separate building with no other staff employed currently. Rakesh accepts his fate and has given up on any dreams. Then NASA announces its MAVEN mission on the same day Tara teaches her maid how to cook pooris. And Tara realises PSLV can be used to go to Mars. Basically, 'when all seems lost, Indian Mom comes to the rescue' is the theme of the movie.
Tara first convinces Rakesh and then the ISRO official by employing the same home science technique. They literally cook pooris in the meeting room (happening around rocket engines) to prove their point. Rakesh gives a long patriotic speech employing cricket metaphors which convinces Director of ISRO (Vikram Gokhale). ISRO's director asks Rupert to assign a team to Mars Department. But being an antagonist, Rupert attributes junior scientists.
In the team of 8, only Rakesh and Tara believes in the mission. Then follows a series of speeches (all with cricket metaphors) first to convince Tara (about the team), ISRO officials (again for the budget) and finally a Eureka moment by Tara to convince the team. Finally, the team is all convinced, and they make the dingy Mars building to a high-tech place all by themselves.
The Mission Mangal
With the team and higher authorities both on board, the work on Mars Orbiter Mission. They face a few technical difficulties on the way but nothing which a few home science inspirations can't solve. They use the components from Chandrayaan 2 (as with leftover food reused the next day). Finally, the satellite is designed, manufactured and tested ready to launch all throughout a song.
The launch has a 9-day launch window, but they are unable to launch because of bad weather. Rakesh calls for an Abort on the last day. Once again, all seems to be lost. Suddenly, the weather clears, and they return to launch the mission successfully. Once again, a few technical difficulties are encountered over the journey to Mars. This time a restart of the mission control room and solar radiations comes to the rescue. We finally successfully reach Mars and end credits roll. Mission Mangal acknowledges ISRO scientists at the end, and this gesture surely deserved a special mention in this review.
The movie does manage to impart the patriotic connection to the Indian Space Mission. Akshay's acting has that impact in every Independence Day movie he does. All other actors also perform quite well even for their poorly written characters. The launch sequences for both GSLV and PSLV were quite good, along with the satellite in orbit scenes. The movie did get the VFX right. There were a lot of correct scientific principles as well, which was really surprising for me. Vidya's explanation of gravities and transfer orbit using a yo-yo deserved appreciation.
The movie is the first step of Bollywood to Space Genre. For this, they took the base story of the Mars Orbiter Mission and added all the tested techniques for a blockbuster. Multiple problems with Authorities taken care of by a few speeches and team members coming together after a revelation has succeeded many times. They even added a scene where the women's team beat a few goons while the leader watches (Chak De India). All the characters have life problems that get solved by the team coming together.
For the first try, I would like to give it to the Hindi Film Industry to make a film that will inspire many to take up Space Science and Technology and possibly join ISRO. Therefore overall, Mission Mangal deserves a positive review. I hope the film encourages people to learn more. For these interested people, I would be posting another article pointing out all the scientific inaccuracies.