Tag Archives: 2023

Movie Review: Mission Majnu (2023)

1 Star (out of 4)

Watch Mission Majnu on Netflix

Not much thought went into Mission Majnu, but the filmmakers probably figured they didn’t need to bother. Slap together a bunch of cliches from the historical patriotic genre playbook that’s so popular in Bollywood right now, and voilà! — Mission Majnu.

The film kicks off its spy story with a soapy romance set in mid-1970s Pakistan. Humble tailor Tariq (Sidharth Malhotra) falls for a stunningly gorgeous, blind woman Nasreen (Rashmika Mandanna). They get married over the objections of her father, who owns a garment shop that makes military uniforms and therefore knows just how little Tariq earns. Nevertheless, love prevails.

Little do Nasreen and her father know that Tariq is actually Amandeep Singh — an Indian spy who’s been living in Pakistan for an indeterminate period of time. We know very little about Tariq/Amandeep other than his father was a traitor, and so the son became a spy as a kind of penance for Dad’s misdeeds. His instructor at the academy R.N. Kao (Parmeet Sethi) — who serves for a time as India’s RAW chief — says Amandeep was the best student he’d ever had.

Amandeep is tasked with finding out information about Pakistan’s burgeoning nuclear weapons program. The film opens by saying that Pakistan started developing nukes in response to losing the war with India in 1971, painting Pakistan as over-reactionary sore losers. Moments later, the narrator clarifies that actually, Pakistan didn’t start its nuclear program until after India tested its first nuclear weapon in 1974 with Operation Smiling Buddha.

This is par for the course in Mission Majnu. India’s actions are always justified even when they are problematic, and any politicians who think about engaging in diplomacy with Pakistan are naïve wimps. Likewise, Pakistan is portrayed as fundamentally deceitful, and their sweets aren’t as good as Indian sweets. No level of insult is too petty.

With a viewpoint rooted in such simplistic nationalism, there can be no question as where Amandeep’s loyalties lie. Duty to country obviously has to win. There’s no tension or moral conflict regarding his marriage to Nasreen, unlike the emotional tug-of-war the main character faces in the much better historical spy drama Raazi (which came out back when movies with political nuance were still acceptable).

Nasreen isn’t much of a character. As written, she exists to give a Amandeep a reason to be emotionally conflicted (even though he’s not), but to never get in his way. Nasreen is perpetually smiling and supportive, grateful that someone was willing to marry her despite her blindness. She’s aware that her husband keeps secrets from her but she doesn’t press him about it, despite the enormous cost she (unknowingly) pays for those secrets.

Any intrigue in the story happens at a national level. Israel is just as worried about Pakistan developing a nuclear weapon as India and has its own spies on the case. But if Israel is mistaken about where the test is happening and bombs the wrong site, India will be on the receiving end of retaliation from Pakistan. Therefore, it’s imperative that India’s spies — which include Aslam (Sharib Hashmi) and Raman Singh (Kumud Mishra) in addition to Amandeep — get the correct location. But even this crisis is handled in a cheesy manor, with imminent destruction being averted just as a countdown from ten reaches one.

Malhotra is quite hammy in Mission Majnu. He plays up his “aw shucks” simple tailor act while goading Pakistan’s generals into bragging about the nuke program, then furrowing his brow and looking concerned when they divulge useful intelligence — as though they wouldn’t notice his abrupt change in demeanor mid-conversation. When Raman Singh shaves his beard and ditches the Muslim scholar garb he’s been wearing for ten years, no one in town cares. And don’t get me started on Aslam’s ridiculous method for reaching for a phone when assassins are after him.

Mission Majnu was cobbled together from tropes and cliches we’ve seen a million times before. Give the movie about as much thought as the filmmakers did — none at all.

Links

Streaming Video News: January 20, 2023

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s premiere of the new Hindi spy thriller Mission Majnu, starring Sidharth Malhotra. Earlier in the week, the Malayalam film Kaapa became available for streaming, and the Telugu movie Dhamaka becomes available tomorrow.

Netflix announced earlier this week that it secured the rights to a slate of 18 Tamil movies and 16 Telugu movies that will stream on the service after their theatrical release. Netflix has long been criticized for its heavily Hindi-focused catalog, and this is a strong statement about the company’s desire to expand its Indian offerings into other languages.

This week’s other new direct-to-streaming Hindi film is the comedy Chhatriwali on Zee5.

I’m planning to review Mission Majnu and Chhatriwali next week. Today and tomorrow, I’m catching up on movies so I can vote in the annual Online Film Critics Society awards. The winners will be announced on January 23. This year’s list of nominees contains some really, really good movies, including RRR, which is nominated in three categories.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with yesterday’s debut of the documentary series Cinema Marte Dum Tak, which covers cult films from the 1990s. Gunda is featured, so obviously I have to watch it at some point.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with the addition of the 2022 Marathi film Sarsenapati Hambirrao and the debut of Season 2 of the Telugu series Jhansi (also available in Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, and Tamil). Hulu/Disney+Hotstar just released the trailer for the new Anil Kapoor-Aditya Roy Kapur series The Night Manager, which premieres February 17:

[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]

Streaming Video News: January 13, 2023

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two new additions today: the 2022 Hindi comedy Mister Mummy — starring married couple Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D’Souza — and the new Netflix Original series Trial By Fire, which is based on a true story. The Tamil film Varalaru Mukkiyam becomes available for streaming tomorrow.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s surprise streaming debut of Ajay Devgn’s thriller sequel Drishyam 2. Amazon also released the trailer for Shahid Kapoor’s first OTT series Farzi, which debuts on February 10:

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with yesterday’s addition of the 2022 Malayalam film Mukundan Unni Associates, which is also available in Hindi and Tamil.

[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]