Mili is a chilling experience—literally!

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Janhvi Kapoor and Sunny Kaushal in Mili. Photo: Raindrop Media 

Bayview Projects’ & Zee Studios’ Mili Produced by: Boney Kapoor Directed by: Mathukutty Xavier  Written by: Mathukutty Xavier, Ritesh Shah, Noble Babu Thomas, Alfred Kurien Joseph  Music: A.R. Rahman  Starring: Janvi Kapoor, Sunny Kaushal, Manoj Pahwa, Rajesh Jais, Anurag Arora, Sanjay Suri, Seema Pahwa, Hasleen Kaur, Vikram Kochhar, Sp. App.: Jackie Shroff 

Any resemblance to Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1975 classic of the same name is strictly coincidental! That was a serious and tragic drama of a very positive girl with a terminal illness. The only similarity here is another positive girl—a nursing graduate biding her time as a waitress in a café based in a mall, who intends to go abroad to learn and earn more than her humble cigarette-smoker-on-the-sly dad (Manoj Pahwa) can do here. En route to her home, Mili always visits a temple with her colleague Hasleen (Hasleen Kaur).

Mili (the pun here is on the Hindi meaning of the word, which means “found”, otherwise the makers could have given any suitable name to her!) Naudiyal (Janhvi Kapoor) is in love with Sameer (Sunny Kaushal), who is as yet unemployed, so she pesters him to find a job so that he can be introduced to her father as her suitor. Meanwhile, the two are caught by a police team one late night as Sameer is not wearing a helmet.

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The cop (Arvind Arora) calls Mili’s father to the police station and so dad stops talking to Mili, who is therefore distraught and reluctant to go home when her shift ends the next night.

On that fateful night, when Sameer is also leaving for Delhi because he has got a job (the story is based in Dehra Dun), Mili helps out two colleagues in stocking supplies and in the process, by bad luck, gets stuck in the café freezer room with temperatures varying from minus 13 to 18 degrees Celsius. Her phone remains outside and with the café and later mall itself closed down for the night, she cannot contact anyone.

Meanwhile her father, Sameer (who comes back from on the way to Delhi when he comes to know she is missing), friend Hasleen and the cops and others desperately hunt for her through the night, and Mili faces a literally chilling death as her body begins to suffer from frostbite. How does Mili survive?

The one prominent fault in the film is its editing and direction in the pre-interval segment as well as in the second half, where the narrative could have been crisper—at least three sequences seem stretched to longer, or much longer than needed. Similarly, what happens to Sameer as he searches for her is clichéd in some aspects. Sadly, in this review, further details will become spoilers.

On the other hands, kudos to the director for the brilliant scene (with Ritesh Shah’s lines) where Sameer has a frank talk with Mili’s dad about his daughter’s character, and also for the way in which the subordinate cop (unknown actor) sends a crucial SMS to top cop Ravi Prasad (Sanjay Suri) when his arrogant and angry superior (Anurag Arora) is holding it back after being reprimanded. Having said that, Jackie Shroff’s cameo is superfluous and gimmicky, but then Boney Kapoor’s films have had twice in cameos (Roop MKi Rani Choron Ka Raja, Sirf Tum)!

Also, Boney last produced Mom with wife and Janhvi’s mother Sridevi, and this is his first production with daughter, and Rahman is the common point! Rahman’s music in that film as well as here is basic, and his background score alright, which is a far cry from the first Boney-Rahman musical collaboration in Pukar.

The direction and script are smart and emotionally gripping, so that the heartwarming emotional moments emerge as a delightful contrast with the freezing, chilling atmospherics. The film is technically brilliant, and the make-up (I did not catch the names in the credit titles) and production design (Apurwa Sondhi) superb.

As for Janhvi Kapoor, she separates the women from the girls among the latest (last seven or eight years) breed. She is brilliant in almost every mood and scene and outdoes herself when caught in the freezer. Sridevi would have been indeed proud of Janhvi, and Boney must be! The young actress is hardworking and puts in the efforts and results that befit a veteran actress.

Sunny Kaushal gives a good account of himself, and Manoj Pahwa is as dependable as ever as the understanding father, in what is essentially a father-daughter love story. Vikram Kochhar as Mili’s eccentric boss and Anurag Arora as the frustrated cop are excellent.

This is doubtlessly one of the finer movies (and the best remake besides Vikram Vedha) in a not-too-good year for Hindi cinema. Never mind the few prominent pan-Indian regional hits.

Rating: ***1/2

 

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