Mission Over Mars Review - Partly engaging, partly over dramatic

Mission Over Mars Review - Partly engaging, partly over dramatic

Sex and violence, regardless of the form or the medium, always sell but this season, something else has found more resonance with Indian audiences, thanks to the due focus on India's spaceship programmes and initiatives by filmmakers. The success of the multi-starrer Mission Mangal, despite being a fictional take on India's Mars Orbiter Mission, has only validated a common man's interest in such stories. Mission Over Mars (M.O.M) is a fictional take focusing on ISRO's Mars Mission, targeted at OTT-platform spectators, featuring names like Mona Singh, Sakshi Tanwar, Nidhi Singh, and Palomi Ghosh. The series, to its credit, doesn't indulge in token-feminism and gives its women-characters enough scope to evolve through the episodes. Unlike Mission Mangal that relied immensely on Akshay Kumar's stardom to draw audiences to the theatres (besides Vidya Balan's credibility), M.O.M's headlined by four women who occupy the lion's share of the content. M.O.M takes a viewer through their professional and personal travails during the execution of the Mars Mission. While these distinct characters have interesting quirks that create an element of intrigue, the presentation is hampered by the dramatised treatment. The pivotal characters, Nandita, Moushmi, Neetu Sinha and Meghan Reddy, are scripted well to ride on the nationalism wave. Be it home or at work, they keep reiterating that they are the pride of the country, being India's best scientists and are a touch above the common man. Their ability to balance personal and professional lives is exaggerated beyond necessity. Even minor clashes and arguments at work are portrayed to be gender statements. Nandita, being the project director, is worried about carrying the burden of national pride on her shoulders and is irked about her teenage son not adhering to her demands. Moushmi is a divorcee who can't remember her daughter's birthday and compares India's space race against China with her use of a Chinese mobile. Meghan Reddy goes on a blind date to compare if her flair for science and IQ matches that of the bridegroom (she literally calculates it). Neetu Sinha's mind is on the spaceship even as she's making out with her husband and is desperate to be a mom. While these character traits are quite okay on paper, the show-creators make a big deal about it (in fact, underestimate a woman's ability to multi-task). Another problematic stretch is the portrayal of men within the Indian Space Agency (a.k.a ISRO). Although gender clashes at any workplace are quite understandable and inevitable too, it's not okay to reduce men as grumpy, insecure caricatures within a prestigious organisation just because the narrative revolves around women. There are dialogues with tall aims, like 'there are no men and women at a space agency, only scientists' which provide a good instantaneous high but don't quite reflect in the content. Time and again, the director Vinay Waikul dilutes the efforts of the ISRO by comparing their space programmes to with China and as if, they don't hold any individual merit otherwise. There are silly conversations about milking the success of space programmes for election propaganda and the politicians demanding the success of a mission at any cost if they were to grant funding. The scientists are made to utter lines as if their lives are dependent on the Mars Mission alone. Of course, Mars Mission is a significant chapter in their lives, yes, but the storytellers don't take into consideration that missions, experiments, successes and failures are something the scientists deal with daily. Sakshi Tanwar (as Nandita), amid all this chaos, is a picture of confidence and grace. Her poised, internalised approach to her character makes her an obvious choice for the lead role. The generally dependable Mona Singh, as Moushmi in the role of an extrovert woman desperate to prove her worth, is over-the-top and her screechy, indulgent voice-overs nearly ruin the show's sincere attempt. Nidhi Singh is a bag of surprises with her charm and Palomi Ghosh finds her feet with an impressive performance after Typewriter. Ashish Vidyarthi may not be in his usual effortless space in this series, yet he does well to take the show forward and most importantly knows to step aside when it matters the most. M.O.M is a mixed ride at the end of the day. Some good performances, interesting back-stories are bogged down by television-soap-like treatment and unnecessary generalisation. Rating: 2.5/5 (Watch the series on ZEE5 here)


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