Sidharth Malhotra and Rashmika Mandanna's spy thriller Mission Majnu is winning hearts globally on Netflix. The film has been trending in the top 10 films list in 18 countries on Netflix including India, Canada, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sri Lanka. It has become the No. 2 non-English film globally on Netflix in its opening weekend of release and has also taken up the first spot in India.
Now, as Mission Majnu continues its winning reign, PeepingMoon spoke to the film's director Shantanu Bagchi. Talking to us, he opened up about what made him direct the spy thriller and cast Sidharth and Rashmika in the lead. Shantanu further reacted to the comparison with Shershaah and why did the film skip a theatrical release.
Excerpts from the interview:
When did the idea of Mission Majnu come to you?
I always wanted to do something to put out stories of unsung heroes that weren't told to the audience. I was eagerly waiting to work on a spy thriller story and Indian history is the best place to dig in for such kind of inspiring stories.
Was Shershaah the reason behind casting Sidharth Malhotra in the lead?
The character of Tariq needed certain qualities. He had to be charming, intelligent, physically fit, and at the times vulnerable. We thought Sidharth had the latitude to play this role. Now, the world can what a stellar performance he has given. It was an independent decision without considering Shershaah.
Mission Majnu was scheduled to come out in theatres in May 2022. What caused the delay and why did it take a digital route after announcing a theatrical premiere?
Soon after starting the film, we were hit by COVID-19 and everything got delayed. It was a chain reaction. Also, we had to complete visual research and VFX. It takes time to do these things well. Everything has pros and cons. A theatrical release would allow people to watch it on a big screen but it would not have the worldwide reach of Netflix. Right now, it is trending as #1 in ten different countries. It is also trending in the 6th and 5th position in UK and Canada consecutively. Many people across the globe are watching and enjoying the movie.
It was technically Rashmika Mandanna’s Hindi debut. What went behind casting her for the role? Any particular reason behind giving her a blind character?
The movie is based on an original idea. We wanted to have a fresh, talented actress for the role of Nasreen. I thought it would be an interesting thing to watch Sidharth and Rashmika on screen as a couple. Being blind makes the character layered and in a threat situation, the audience will care for her more. Also, it allows the love story to have a certain kind of depth.
Was it a challenge to start your career as a feature filmmaker with a spy thriller?
It is a multi-plot film. To keep the pace and tell it in an engrossing way was the challenge. But I enjoy watching spy thrillers and it was a great story based on real events. I was excited and kicked to direct such interesting material.
What kind of research went into making Mission Majnu?
Creating a period piece needs detailed research. Primarily, we did two kinds of period-specific research. One, the factual research. For example, we found, Pakistan PM Bhutto’s famous remark, "Ghaans kha lenge lekin Pakistan atom bomb bananke rahega," calling back A Q Khan from the Netherlands, smuggling different elements and material from Europe to build the bomb, creating a nuclear facility in an undisclosed location, Governments changing in both countries, and so on. Then we did the visual research. We also identified the kind of attire Pakistanis wore in the 1970s, their architecture, interior spaces, and other weapons that Israel used to bomb Quetta. Even the nuclear facility we have shown is authentic. These numerous types of research became the base for us to create the world.
Are you planning to spin a franchise on spies of India?
Frankly, I never thought of it but I am open if something interesting comes up.
In the past, Indian cinema has seen spy films like the Tiger franchise, War, and now, Pathaan. Did you fear comparison?
Not really. It's a very different story, and every spy thriller comes with a different set of characters and a different storyline than each other and if still somebody wants to compare it's not in my hands. We tried to do justice to stories based on true events.
Many even compared Mission Majnu with Shershaah. How did you react to this?
As we all know, these two are two very different films. How can one even compare them?