Mission Raniganj is enlightening blend of reality, drama

Akshay Kumar in Mission Raniganj—The Great Bharat Rescue. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Immensely well-made, Mission Raniganj—The Great Bharat Rescue is a slice-of-life drama that narrates the saga of the Mahabir Colliery collapse that happened in 1989 in Raniganj, West Bengal. In essence and effect, it thus becomes the story of Jaswant Singh Gill, known as ‘Capsule’ Gill, a mining engineer from IIT, Dhanbad, who conceived and carried out the rescue operation that went on for 48 hours to safely bring out 65 miners trapped in the flooded mines in which poisonous gases were also spreading.

In such a challenging narration, where real and dramatic must blend to present a film for the layman, entertainment and education are both pre-determined requisites. Obviously, such scripting and execution provides a great challenge to the makers, and director Tinu Suresh Desai, who directed Akshay Kumar in Rustom, another (and much dramatized) real-life saga, meets the challenge very skillfully.

The first half establishes what happens in a mine and reflects on the lives of these poor miners and their issues—like one of them sells his mining shoes to get some money that he needs, and an older man works overtime because his daughter is getting married. The subterranean conditions are also shown and the whole process is an education for the viewer. Happily, even though the feel in the first and briefer half of the film is almost docudrama-like in its format, at no point does it become dry, bland or boring.

Yes, we have some licenses taken here—like a Punjabi (lyrics completely in that language) wedding song in which the protagonist and wife dance, but that is permissible here, given the mainstream flavor the film aspires to achieve.

The second half is much more intense, and contains human drama with dollops of emotions—rage, despair, human cunning and vindictiveness, callousness for lives and caring for human beings, frustration, a flash of humor here and there even amoing the miners, and relentless optimism. The incident of the dog (apologies to the Sherlock Homes series and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!) is so uplifting that I hope that it reflects something that happened in real life.

At the same time, while not denying the entertainment quotient, I found the clichéd happenings in the last half an hour, both among the trapped miners and the official forces above, much more than just narration-wise unpalatable. The altruistic attitude of Nirdosh Gill (Parineeti Chopra) just seemed too good to be true and, if it that really happened, one must doff several hats to the courage of the real woman, who loved Jaswant so much that she left London to settle in a small town in India.

A big thumbs-up is deserved by the entire behind-the-scenes team of Mission Raniganj for the surpassingly brilliant work, and the replicas of the grimy mines and everything about them is fantastic. Akin yet far superior to the excellent work of how Dubai Airport in the 1980s was re-created for another Akshay-Pooja Entertainment collaboration, BellBottom, it speaks volumes for the dedication of the crew to making something that may not be completely palatable box-office fodder as it gives the real quotient higher priority than the ‘reel’ one.

Thus, even more than the script (Vipul K. Rawal and Deepak Kingrani with Poonam Gill credited with the story idea), the cinematography (Aseem Mishra), production design (Amrish Patange and Dayanidhi Patturajan), costume design (Sheetal Sharma), and the make-up, action and visual effects departments all stand tall in this enterprise. The songs are nothing great (in the movie, Jeetenge, composed by Arko and written by Kumar Vishwas enhances the mood while on) but Sandeep Shirodkar’s background score works with its sheer power.

Tinu Suresh Desai clearly improves upon his craft—it’s been an ascending haul for him from 1920 London to Rustom to this film, and as a director, he not only works with but also extracts wonderful performances from his entire cast.

Akshay Kumar continues on his magical way of turning into diverse characters—real or fictional—and coming up with impeccable performances without experimenting too much with his physique. At 56, he convincingly plays a 50 year-old (as Jaswant was at the time of the tragedy) man who spared no effort to save 65 men with selfless effort and at great personal risk. Parineeti Chopra is alright as his wife.

Among the officials on-ground, standout portrayals come from four stalwarts—Dibyendu Bhattacharya as the callous Sen, Pavan Malhotra as engineer Bindal, Virendra Saxena as Tapan Ghosh and Kumud Mishra as Ujjwal. Down in the mines, though Ravi Kishan overacts a tad as Bhola, Varun Badola as Shaligram and Jameel Khan as Pasu effortlessly overshadow all.

Pats are also deserved for Shishir Mishra as Dayal, Sudhir Pandey as Behra, Bachan Pachera as Noor and Taru Devani as the inconsolable wife.

Some movies are meant to be made and deserve to be watched. The makers have done their bit. The audience must now do the needful. If they can endorse cinematic kitsch galore in recent times, it is necessary that alongside the illogical spice, some sweets also become a part of their plate of entertainment.

Effortlessly, Mission Raniganj falls in the category of the outstanding cream of Akshay Kumar’s real-life stories, where the other leaders are Airlift, Mission Mangal and Kesari.

Rating: ****

Pooja Entertainment’s & Ajay Kapoor Productions’ Mission Raniganj—The Great Bharat Rescue Produced by: Vashu Bhagnani, Jackky Bhagnani, Deepshikha Deshmukh & Ajay Kapoor  Directed by: Tinu Suresh Desai  Written by: Poonam Gill, Vipul K Rawal & Deepak Kingrani  Music: Satinder Sartaaj, Prem-Hardeep, Arko, Vishal Mishra & Gaurav Chatterji  Starring: Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra, Kumud Mishra, Pavan Malhotra, Ravi Kishan, Varun Badola, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Rajesh Sharma, Gaurav Prateek, Virendra Saxena, Shishir Sharma, Ananth Mahadevan, Aarif Zakaria, Jameel Khan, Sudhir Pandey, Bachan Pachera, Mukesh Bhatt, Omkar Das Manikpuri, Khushboo Atre, Hima Singh, Taru Devani, Veerendra Saxena & others






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