Trust Akshay Kumar to always lead the pack when it comes to taking up hard-hitting stories inspired by true events and heroic tales of unsung warriors. In his latest outing, Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue, the actor steps into the shoes of Jaswant Singh Gill, Additional Chief Mining Engineer at Coal India, who put all his might into saving the lives of 70 miners trapped in the flooded bowels of Mahabir Colliery in Raniganj, West Bengal, in 1989. In a race against time, when all conventional engineering methods failed, Gill came up with a ‘jugaad’ to rescue the miners. (Also read: Thank You For Coming review: Bhumi Pednekar’s sex comedy is peachy, not preachy)
While Kumar delivers a sincere performance showing immense conviction portraying Gill’s part, it’s the storytelling that doesn’t do full justice to the plot. Director Tinu Suresh Desai weaves the screenplay in a manner that it keeps you engaged and invested, with several hard-hitting moments. However, he majorly falters at places where he lets his hero take the centerstage, putting the story at the backseat. In portions where Kumar dominates most of the screen time, the focus is primarily on his actions and efforts rather than the ordeal of the miners stuck deep in the mine. That’s when you feel that perhaps a little more attention could have been paid to others as well.
At 2 hours 18 minutes, Mission Raniganj is well-timed but the first half takes forever to build the plot. It is overloaded with jargon and machinery mumbo jumbo that’s gets too much to take in all at once. It’s only in the final minutes pre-interval that the story picks up, and the second half gains momentum. That’s when you feel the tension that the miners are also feeling. The story by Vipul K. Rawal had so much more to be told than just one night. Dialogues written by Deepak Kingrani are average, and rarely call for any whistles or loud cheers. That being said, I must say that the way Kumar manages to expertly land jokes even in the most intense scenes is commendable.
As the rescue operation officer, Gill doesn’t bat an eyelid when taking difficult decisions, and his body language signals a deep sense of calm amid chaos. Kumar leaves no stone unturned to pay an honest tribute to the relentless efforts of Gill, who risked his own life to rescue the miners. Despite being the hero of the story, Desai hardly attempts to familiarize us with Gill’s real side, and only sticks to the material that’s already available. Other than his relationship with his wife Nirdosh Kaur Gill (Parineeti Chopra), who stands as his pillar of strength and support, we don’t know anything else about how Gill was as a person.
Besides showing the gritty and gutsy tale of valour, Mission Raniganj also shed light on the corruption within the system, where some cunning and insecure officers like mining engineer D. Sen (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) would make sure to put other people’s efforts in jeopardy. Among some noteworthy performances, Kumud Mishra as Mahabir Colliery chief R.J. Ujjwal and Pavan Malhotra as Bindal stand out. Also, playing the terrified miners, Ravi Kishan as Bhola, Varun Badola as Shaligram and Jameel Khan as Pasu, are earnest in their respective parts.
The film overall leaves you with a sense of victory and feeling proud of having heroes like Gill, yet you wish the story had more soul and depth, and rose beyond the heroic deeds to give way to some more humanism.