White Guy Watches Bollywood

A random white guy engages with contemporary Indian cinema... one movie at a time

Sandeep Shirodkar

Hindi Movie Review: Mission Raniganj takes a dated, but still emotionally engaging approach to telling a harrowing true mining story

Akshay Kumar stars in the Hindi film "Mission Raniganj," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

The box office underperformance of Mission Raniganj has led many online and in the Bollywood media to speculate that Akshay Kumar may be ‘done for’ as a leading man, especially when paired with the disastrous results for his other key film this year, Selfiee. And the movie itself lends plenty of ammunition to this argument, coming across as dated in several ways that feel less nostalgic (a la Top Gun: Maverick) than they do just-plain-tired. Based on the famous coal mining rescue mission of 1989, the film’s story is truly remarkable, but as audiences have been reminded countless times before, inspiring source material doesn’t automatically lend itself to great filmmaking.

The first few scenes, in particular, had me fearing for the worst. They immediately struck me as though they could be part of a Bollywood film quickly forgotten 20 years ago – and I’m relatively new to watching this industry’s productions! Kumar’s character, mining engineer Jaswant Singh Gill, is introduced with such an old-fashioned heroic tone that feels so artificial, you have to keep reminding yourself that he’s actually based on a real person. Then there’s a throwaway musical number because… well, the filmmakers still feel obligated to include one and there was no other logical place to toss it in. Not long after, we get to the big action set-piece where the mine collapses, trapping dozens of miners inside, and the cheap-looking CGI (especially the water effects) undermines the authenticity of the chaos.

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