Watching Mission Mangal, which releases today, would be the perfect way to spend a few hours on your Independence Day holiday. The story revolves around the true events of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s successful launching of the Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan) which made Mars more accessible to explore. Besides marking India’s first interplanetary expedition, it was also the least expensive mission to Mars.
With a star-studded ensemble, the films sees Akshay Kumar playing Rakesh Dhawan, with Vidya Balan as Tara Shinde, Sonakshi Sinha as Eka Gandhi, Taapsee Pannu as Kritika Aggarwal, Nithya Menen as Varsha Pillai and Kirti Kulhari as Neha Siddiqui.
Director Jagan Shakti, who has previously worked with R Balki and A R Murugadoss, reveals that it was his elder sister, Sujatha Krishna, a scientist at ISRO, who inspired this film.
He was struck by how, even after her marriage, he would see her get up by around five in the morning to do household chores, cook meals and then go to work. Her work? A space launch!
Shakti, who had begun writing the script while working as an associate director on PadMan, got permission to interview the team behind the launch. Needless to add, his sister helped immensely putting him in touch with the team.
He is clear that there is no single hero in Mission Mangal; there was an entire team behind the mission. While the core team had around six women and four men, apart from the chairperson, ISRO is a 17,000-strong company, with many chipping in.
Interestingly, the one thing that struck Shakti in his interviews with the women was that they were so simple. He shares that if you saw them at a market or a bus stand, you wouldn’t guess that they were scientists. Another key observation:
That they have a very positive outlook. He points out that they were ordinary people setting out to do extraordinary things. And every time they hit a roadblock, they found a simpler solution.
There’s much to look forward to in this drama. Taapsee Pannu, who heads the navigation and communication team in the film, credits director Jagan Shakti as being courageous to have taken on such a project for his directorial debut.
Nithya Menen, who plays a satellite designer, speaks about how Shakti was so technically and factually sound that any doubts that the team had, he solved them with ease.
Although it is based on a scientific mission, the director has taken care to keep it basic and add a slice of life element to the film so that the audience is made aware and is left entertained at the same time.
Each character in this film has a personal story that they are dealing with on the sidelines, which makes them relatable. And once they come together for a mission of this magnitude, the importance of their problems pale in comparison and they put their heart and soul into their work.
It also touches upon how men and women who are doing the same kind of work may have a very different approach to it. It should be credited to ISRO that the work done by the women is highlighted and celebrated just as equitably as that done by the men in the team.
The hard work and accomplishments of our nation’s organisations are generally brought to light in the media for insignificant amounts of time only, leaving the citizens with little to no knowledge of the happenings in our country.
A film like Mission Mangal gives us a glimpse into the workings of ISRO and will leave us feeling more knowledgable and proud of our country’s achievements.
Recently, Vidya Balan had shared that she was glad she did the film as it celebrates India’s achievements. “I felt this story needed to be told. We Indians do not wear our pride on our sleeves for our country and I am glad that more films are being made that make us aware what a great nation we are... I am glad our movies are doing that and Mission Mangal is doing that.”
Akshay Kumar, who plays a senior scientist, had revealed that he did Mission Mangal especially for his daughter Nitara and children her age. “Mission Mangal, a film which I hope will inspire as well as entertain.
A film which I've done specially for my daughter and children her age to familiarise them with the incredible true story of India's mission to Mars.” We have a strong feeling it will be successful on all these levels.