Mission Majnu: Sidharth’s brilliance highlight of smart espionage thriller

Sidharth Malhoitra and Rashmika Mandanna (left) in Mission Majnu. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Plot-wise, one can perhaps draw parallels to Raazi, which was inspired by a single real-life case: Mission Majnu takes inspiration from many real sagas about the unknown soldiers of our nation: the espionage brigade that works to gather vital info on enemy terrain. For Sidharth Malhotra, the film is like a repeat of Shershaah, strictly in the sense of it being another potential box-office winner that was chosen to be released on OTT instead. And for Ronnie Screwvala, it is yet another patriotic triumph after his URI—The Surgical Strike. Finally, for Rashmika Mandanna, the story has shades of resemblance to Sita Ramam, which will be realized only when one views this film.

Tariq (Sidharth Malhotra) is an ace tailor living in Pakistan. For his own ends (of a patriotic mission), he takes up employment with Momin (Manoj Bakshi), whose establishment makes uniforms for the Pakistani army’s top brass, though a part of the incentive is also Momin’s blind niece, Nasreen (Rashmika Mandanna), with whom it is love at first sight for him. Tariq weds Nasreen soon, and she also becomes pregnant.

But Tariq’s reality is different. He is actually Amandeep Ajitpal Singh, son of a traitor, who is a fiery patriot and wants to redeem the shame brought on his late mother and him (as a boy) by his father. Trained and trusted by no less than Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW, the Indian intelligence agency)’s revered founder, R.N. Kao (Parmeet Sethi), who also appoints him on the mission, he is distrusted by his handler (Zakir Hussain) who often taunts and disregards him because of his late father.

The undercover assignment, titled Mission Majnu, is about finding out whether (and where, after it is confirmed), a panicky Pakistan is planning to have its first nuclear test as a retaliatory aftermath of India’s first successful one in 1974. Tariq is instructed to join hands with Aslam Usmania (Sharib Hashmi), another covert agent based in Pakistan.

Now Tariq a.k.a. Aman has a double job: to look after his country’s interests and that of his beloved wife. And he also has to convince his superior, after Kao resigns in the wake of Indira Gandhi (Avantika Akerkar)’s1977 defeat and Morarji Desai (Avijit Dutt)’s different outlook on Indo-Pakistan relations, that he is a true patriot and means business. And he goes about his mission with a truly audacious ingenuity.

Grippingly told in 128 minutes, Mission Majnu is a fast-paced spy drama with a difference—it barely has the action expected from this genre (another similarity to Raazi and that all-time masterpiece, the 1999 Sarfarosh), but depends more on a spy’s intelligence and genius to bring home the bacon. The climax too, is interestingly designed and as convincing as it is moving.

The highlight of this film is Sidharth Malhotra, whose performance I would rate higher than in Shershaah—his best before this. The script and the director flesh out his nuances so engagingly that it gives the actor a great opportunity to show his full histrionic muscle, and there is only one succinct word to describe his work here—Wow!

Rashmika Mandanna does not have much to do, but does it effectively. Kumud Mishra as the moulvi and Sharib Hashmi as Aslam are superb. This film is perhaps the first mainstream fiction that shows two successive Indian Prime Ministers as well as two consecutive Pakistani leaders and the four actors are alright. Making a mark also is Manoj Bakshi as Momin, while Zakir Hussain is, as usual, excellent in his nuanced but not too big role as the cynical handler who learns a lesson the hard way.

The cinematography (Bijitesh De) and production design (Rita Ghosh) help make things very real and a further boost comes from Divvya Gambhir’s and Nidhi Gambhir’s splendidly authentic costume designing. Ketan Sodha’s background music is imaginative and the editing by Nitin Baid and Siddharth Pandey helps the film move briskly, without any stretched points. A dampener (though luckily of little consequence) is the music. Even the superbly-written Manoj Muntashir song, Maati ko maa kehte hain is tepidly tuned and sung.

However, this little disappointment barely registers in a very smartly conceived, written (Sumit Batheja’s dialogues stand out too) and executed patriotic drama that is actually raw (no pun intended!),real, gritty and engrossing. And as a debut director, Shantanu Bagchi is indeed a man to watch.

Rating: **** 

Netflix presents RSVP’s & Guilty By Association’s Mission Majnu Produced by: Ronnie Screwvala, Amar Butala & Garima Mehta  Directed by: Shantanu Bagchi Written by: Parveez Sheikh, Aseem Arora & Sumit Batheja Music: Tanishk Bagchi, Arko & Rochak Kohli  Starring: Sidharth Malhotra, Rashmika Mandanna, Kumud Mishra, Sharib Hashmi, Parmeet Sethi, Ananth Mahadevan, Shishir Sharma, Zakir Hussain, Ashwath Bhatt, Rajit Kapoor, Avantika Akerkar, Avijit Dutt, Manoj Bakshi, Salim Fatehi, Mir Sarwar, Shivraj D. Walvekar, Manoj Dutt, Tripta Lakhenpal, Mahrru Shaikh, Rabiat Adzhikamalova, Aditya Arya & others





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