After 7 years since Rustom, actor Akshay Kumar and filmmaker Tinu Suresh Desai have teamed up for Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue. Even though we have seen other stories before like Kaala Patthar and Gunday, this Pooja Entertainment production promises to humanise the grit behind miners and how humanity conquers all.
The survival thriller flick is based on an inspiring true story, which might be unknown to many – including myself. Set in November 1989 when a blast in the wrong place of an underground coal mine, results in a flood. In the eyes of British Engineers and Senior officers of Coal India present there, these miners are already dead. However, Jaswant Singh Gill (played by Akshay Kumar) Additional Chief Engineer and Rescue Trained Officer from Coal India, thinks otherwise and wants to start a rescue mission. With waters rising and a 48-hour deadline to save the miners’ lives, his efforts are put to the test, even missing the baby delivery of his wife (played by Parineeti Chopra). His only solution and focus is to innovate an iron capsule. So is he successful?
As inspiring as this real triumph is, unfortunately, the first half is rushed and underdeveloped. Within a few minutes, we see both Kumar and Chopra in a peppy dance number, with very minimal character development. On the contrary, the emotions are replaced by jarring background music and over-the-top crying scenes. The crass CGI and poor green-screen work also act as a barrier for us to feel immersed. Cheesy dialogues, with stereotypical villains, add a jarring tempo to the film.
An observation about Desai’s work is that his direction is often very underwhelming in the first half. But then, the post-interval segment picks up its pace like in Rustom. This is the case with Mission Raniganj too, perhaps with more action and the story finding its resolution. The second half improves but by the time it engages the audience, it is too late. The disconnect is way too palpable for it to be made up.
Kumar tries his best to convince us as the coal mining hero but sadly, the writing lets him down. Chopra gets a very limited scope to shine. I like the idea of her playing a strong wife, though her parts are very sporadic and seem like set pieces joined together. Ravi Kishan hams his way through, playing the role of a pessimistic miner. It is great to see other talents like Kumud Mishra, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Ananth Mahadevan and Virendra Sharma too, unfortunately though, they are not provided with strong written material.
Overall, Mission Raniganj is a missed opportunity. With a solid story of unsung valour spearheaded by Akshay Kumar, one certainly expected highly engaging cinema conveyed sincerely. Judging the overall product and the way the story is narrated, it certainly seems many changes have gone into the exhibition side of it. Even though the half-baked first half is troublesome to sit through, the second half does show some redemption. However, more than anything, this film deserves a one-time watch for a hero like Jaswant Singh Gill.
.5 (2.5/5 stars)