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Even Capsule Gill can’t rescue Akshay Kumar from the downward slide – Beyond Bollywood

What could have been Akshay Kumar’s finest film, ends up in another disappointment. More worryingly, it doesn’t do justice to the heroic tale of real hero Jaswant Singh Gill.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️ (2 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

He might be struggling but Akshay Kumar is still a super star. Fans are perhaps modest in their expectations, but an Akshay Kumar film releasing with literally zero buzz is unheard of. Forget the prolonged poor run, but shouldn’t Akshay Kumar be promoting his film? What could be the possible reason? Is he weighed down by his poor run? Did Kumar not rate his next – Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue? Or maybe, he was confident enough of the film doing well without any promotion.

The box office verdict will be out in a few days, but does it appeal to the critics? Here’s a film that is inspired by a true tale of heroism. In 1989, mining engineer Jaswant Singh Gill was much lauded for rescuing 65 miners trapped in the Raniganj coalfields. Kumar rejoined forces with his Rustom [2016] director Tinu Suresh Desai and writer Vipul Ki Rawal.  

Kumar has a fine record when he’s donned the turban – Singh is Kiing [2008], Singh is Bliing [2015], and Kesari [2019], Jaswant Gill though is a real-life character. His story didn’t merit the funny Sikh of Singh is Kiing / Singh is Bliing. Nor is Gill a soldier like Ishar Singh of Kesari. Jaswant though had a more challenging task of rescuing trapped miners.  The Chasnala mining disaster saw Yash Chopra helm Kaala Patthar [1979]. 14 years later, a similar crisis unfolded in Raniganj, West Bengal with Gill emerging a hero.

OMG 2 [2023] was successful, but Kumar only had a pivotal cameo in the social drama.  On the face of it, Akshay Kumar arguably had the finest story of his career in Mission Raniganj. This was a perfect opportunity to stem the rot. Technology wasn’t great in 1970s, yet Yash Chopra succeeded in giving a gripping film that was loosely based on the Chasnala mining disaster. Forward to 2023, one has access to great tech, but could top notch production design have altered the view around Mission Raniganj?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.  The messy screenplay seldom builds any engagement. So, it wouldn’t matter if the coal mine didn’t look like one. Besides, how many film critics can claim to have stepped inside a coal mine?

Tinu Suresh Desai, writer Vipul Rawal do their research well on the technical side of this rescue mission. The film opens with a brief information on the history of coal mining, He would go on to win hearts of the miners, but Gill [Akshay Kumar] has no place for lackadaisical attitude at work. He fires an incompetent worker, who runs to his ruffian master. Gill is new to Raniganj, having arrived from Dhanbad, [Jharkhand] recently. He might have heard of Communist Bengal, but he’s about to get a taste of it in his opening scene. Never underestimate a Sardar though. The Bengali ruffian [played by Kharaj Mukherjee] learns it the hard way.  Gill is a tough disciplinarian but he cares for his men. More than an engineer, he considers himself a miner. He’s yet to know most of his miners, when this calamity happens. Gill’s lost six miners, but he isn’t ready to give up on the 65 men, when all others have given up hope. There are people around looking to milk this situation to their advantage and discredit Gill and his boss Ujwal [Kumud Mishra].  Gill, too, has reluctantly given up when a certain divine intervention takes place. Tiger, the local pooch, alerts Gill that miners zinda hai (miners are alive).

Though a great story, but the insipid first half screenplay does great damage to Mission Raniganj. The tension builds up in the final 30 minutes, but the unconvincing screenplay, average direction and shallow performances dumps the viewer into a dark abyss.

Kumar does his bring his subtly humour in tackling with the various crisis at hand. Fearing that things could turn tense, Gill cheekily tells all the wives/families of the trapped miners to get fresh home cooked food. Kumar isn’t bad, but he lacks the requisite intensity to play such a role.

He’s not the chief culprit here though as that blame lies purely on the shoulders of director Desai, who fails to get the best out of the rich pool of talent at his disposal. Ravi Kishan, Varun Badola, Sudhir Pandey, Jameel Khan, Kumud Mishra, Pavan Malhotra. Each artiste puts up a ham fest. Regrettably, we never taught that one day we could be saying this about Kumud Mishra. Desai’s representation of miners and their respective families smacks of stereotypes.  We’ve never stepped inside a coal mine, but there is no sense of genuine fear of being trapped inside a mine.

If it wasn’t enough to see talented artistes disappoint, Parineeti Chopra is consistent in giving below par performances. Nirdosh Kaur [Chopra] is the wife of Gill. Gill owes his strength to his equally tough wife, but Parineeti makes a meal of this opportunity. The tacky screenplay and the nauseating acts would leave a viewer claustrophobic.

The lone consistent performer here is Dibyendu Bhattacharya, who impresses in his cunning act as Sen, the experienced engineer.

Music can be a distraction in such a story. The early Jalsa track by Satinder Sartaaj is entertaining.  The rest are pedestrian.

It’s disappointing that a fine true story is lost in another shoddy Bollywood screenplay. Capsule Gill, as he was fondly called, can’t save Akshay Kumar from his downward slide. What’s more disappointing is that Desai and Kumar don’t do justice to the Jaswant Gill story.

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