Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue
Starring Akshay Kumar,Parineeti Chopra, Pavan Malhotra
Directed by Tinu Suresh Desai
At last, a biopic about a true hero. If you are as tired of watching gangsters being glorified on screen as I am,then here is a welcome break. Mission Raniganj(the appendage in the title about ‘Great Bharat’ seems an afterthought) pushes the timeline back to 1989 when at the Raniganj coalfield in West Bengal, a Sikh mining officer Jaswant Singh Gill rescued sixty-five miners after a mining accident.
Like the 2015 Spanish film The 33 which vividly recreated the real events of the 2010 Copiapó mining disaster, in which a group of thirty-three miners were trapped inside the San José Mine in Chile for sixtynine days, Mission Raniganj strives to bring the palpable immediacy of the disaster to us.
If you have seen Tinu Desai’s earlier Akshay starrer Rustom you would would know this director isn’t too enamoured of subtlety. He brings to us the crisis at the colliery with all the resident emotions over-punctuated to a shrieking decibel. If the film still manages to create a positive impact, it is because of Akshay Kumar’s subdued performance as the mining engineer suddenly thrown into a crisis where multiple lives depend on his split-second decisions.
Director Desai and his expeditious editor(Aarif Sheikh) go for the jugular, cutting into the drama with a haste that leaves the narrative breathless. This, they believe, would keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Ironically the speed is the main culprit here. Many times I felt like asking Desai to slow down,take a deep breath and then proceed.A crisis cannot be highlighted by a pauseless narration.
The upstrairs-downstairs storytelling catches the urgent goings-on both below and above groundlevel .While the authorities and administration squabble above ground,the trapped miners seem to be in a state of heightened hysteria with Ravi Kissan freaking out so often he seems like a sitting duck for a heart attack.
Barring Akshay Kumar everyone overacts liberally. It is sad to see brilliant actors like Pavan Malhotra and Kumud Mishra trembling with an ostentatious rage at the red-tapism all around them. The award for the most dedicated hamming goes to Dibyendu Bhattacharya(so in-character in Applause Entertainment’s superb series Undekhi) here reduced to a caricatural villainy which culminates in his being tied to a pillar and flooged shirtless.
And here we were thinking flaring nostrils had gone out of style with bellbottoms!
The junior artistes playing distressed relatives of the tragedy victim all stand around in newly purchased poverty clothes, shrieking and sobbing intermittently. The best distressed relative is played by a canine which waits for its owner to emerge from the ground after a lengthy rescue opreration which is the mainstay of the film.
Aseem Mishra’s cinematography is outstanding in its pursuit of excellence in the dingy situation.
For all its faults Mission Raniganj holds our attention not allowing us to look away even for a second. Oh yes, there is Parineeti Chopra with even less screen space with Akshay Kumar than she had in Kesari. As this well-intended engrossing film tells us, we are a nation which doesn’t learn from its past mistakes.