Mission Majnu is now streaming on Netflix, and is the streaming service's first major release of 2023 from India. At its heart, it's a spy thriller focusing on intelligence gathering by Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) agents operating deep within Pakistan, but the title is the most obvious giveaway that there is a love-story angle to the film as well. Indeed, Mission Majnu is the story of an intelligence agent who manages to strike the right balance between his duty to his country, and his true love and care for his wife and unborn child, despite the fact that it was always a part of his cover. Here is our spoiler-free review of the new Netflix movie.
Shantanu Bagchi makes a decent directorial debut in Mission Majnu, but he admittedly has a rather easy formula to work with. The choice of setting is a rather smart one, in my opinion. Viewers will immediately relate to the idea of tensions between India and Pakistan, but Mission Majnu picks an interesting peace-time era between the two countries. This comes across as the ideal setting for a movie focused on espionage, and does so fairly tastefully.
The movie starts with a history lesson covering the period and setting of the film, the mid-to-late 1970s, and the start of both India and Pakistan's nuclear programs. All of this is done lightly and without getting into too much detail around the politics or real-life tensions between the two countries, at the time engaged in a subcontinental ‘cold war' of its own kind. This does mean that the politics of the era come across as a bit odd and overly-dramatised, and the dialogue is a bit over-the-top, but it serves to sort of remind you to not take this movie too seriously either.
It also quickly introduces the lead character, Amandeep alias Tariq (Sidharth Malhotra) as a tailor working for a shop in Rawalpindi that is known to stitch uniforms for the Pakistani army. He marries a visually impaired Nasreen (Rashmika Mandanna) who is the niece of his employer, and uses his position and cover to gain access to military intelligence aimed at exposing the development of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. The actual process of gathering intelligence comes across as a bit clownish and ridiculously convenient for Tariq, but once again, you aren't expected to take the film too seriously.
Throughout the first half of the film, Tariq's own motivations and backstory are revealed, particularly focusing on the fact that his father was considered a national traitor, and he chose not to run from this reputation but to take the hard route towards proving his patriotism and love for his nation. He is revealed to be a star cadet at RAW and is trusted by the agency chief RN Kao (Parmeet Sethi), even if his direct handler Sharma (Zakir Hussain) doesn't think much of him while himself sitting comfortably and safely behind a desk in a Delhi shop.
Most of the performances are as expected, although Rashmika Mandanna does seem to struggle a bit with speaking in Urdu and takes too long to deliver even simple dialogues. Sidharth Malhotra, on the other hand, channels his Punjabi upbringing to better effect, switching a bit more easily between Punjabi-Urdu and the occasional use of English and Indian Hindi.
Most of the other performances from the rest of the cast aren't bad, but aren't particularly memorable either, save for fellow field agents in Pakistan such as Aslam (Sharib Hashmi) and Raman (Kumud Mishra), who serve as companions to Amandeep. The duo help deliver slight comedic relief. Sadly, the film regularly uses cringey dialogue to take the edge off the otherwise serious setting and tensions of the era. Tariq's occasional ‘lightbulb' moments also help to tell the story of his above-average intelligence in the art of espionage, apart from adding slight hilarity to the plot.
The second half of the film is less about espionage, and more about all-out action as Tariq first focuses on completing the mission, and then on escaping Pakistan. It also explores how Mission Majnu was never just a mission for him, and the bond he formed with his ‘wife' in Pakistan weren't affected by his patriotic duty.
On the whole, Mission Majnu is about finding the right balance between patriotic duty and personal relationships. It's a feel-good story that despite the cringey dialogue, dramatised politicking, and largely ordinary performances from the cast, has its heart in the right place and faithfully tells a story of true events that have admittedly been largely brushed over thus far.
Mission Majnu is streaming now on Netflix. In India, the film is available in Hindi, English, Tamil, and Telugu.