India’s first nuclear explosion in 1974, the Pokharan explosion (codenamed The Smiley Buddha) caused ripples around the world. It was frowned upon by Pakistan and it immediately launched its own covert N program in retaliation. The news, brought up by Indian agents, caused widespread consternation. A dirty bomb that possesses an unstable democracy can be lethal. How it stopped in its tracks is the story of Mission Majnu, which begins by saying that it was ‘inspired by real events’.
The film opens in a pure documentary style, showing how World War II ended with the Nagasaki and Hiroshima explosions. It then switches to Rawalpindi where RAW officer Tariq Ali (Sidharth Malhotra) sets the scene for the lead role. Pakistani agent. In the voice-over, we hear the voice of RAW Chief RN Kao, a character who played a key role in these events. This is another nudge for us, the viewers, to take the process seriously.
What about authenticity?
The question then arises of how far one can dramatize events in the pursuit of authenticity. Given our long run of Bollywood spy sagas full of song and dance and romance, we don’t blink an eyelid when we witness the double life of handsome Tariq. His day job as a sewing apprentice is filled with the lovely Nasreen (Rashmika Mandanna). He has no sight, but is good at seeing the truth. She is not part of his stomach that is discarded when the time comes. She is the love of his life.
When not spying on Nasreen, Tariq is a pretty cunning spy. In an inadvertently hilarious scene, he engages a senior Pakistani military officer and uncovers top-secret intel. Flat in 10 minutes. An old lady poured more beans and suddenly all the dots came together. However, Tariq has a dark past and it keeps showing up in flashbacks. His foul-mouthed trainer (Hussein) at home keeps asking. His collaborators, a dhaba owner with a colorful mustache (Hashmi) and a bearded maulvi, whom we later learn, show up as needed.