Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Rishab Shetty, Hareesh Peradi
Director: Swaroop RSJ
I could picture Swaroop RSJ donning the writer’s hat and beaming with pride after coming up with the idea for Mishan Impossible. Three foolish but ambitious children from a small village set out to catch Dawood Ibrahim only to get caught up in a child trafficking ring. Do they get back safely? Do they struggle? Throw a determined/selfish investigative reporter into the mix and there’s ample tension. It’s a banger idea that can be so much fun.
I can imagine Swaroop RSJ the dialogue and screenplay writer giggling to himself mocking the who’s who of the Telugu directorial pantheon, though the mocking is never in derision but in adoration. This version of Swaroop RSJ seems to relish the fact that he made it to the leagues of the directors who once he was a fan of but can now call his ‘seniors’. I don’t want to ruin it by revealing too much but the jokes are fantastic.
I can even picture him being proud that after making a fantastic debut with Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya, he found a perfect plot point with Mishan Impossible so that he doesn’t crumble under the weight of expectations.
But in Mishan Impossible, Swaroop RSJ, the director, seems to struggle with the comedic mind of Swaroop RSJ, the writer.
Mishan Impossible is the story of Raghupathi (Harsh Roshan), Raghava (Bhanuprakash), Rajaram (Jayatheertha), from a village near Tirupathi who want to earn respect by becoming rich and famous. They make a hare-brained plan to go to Mumbai and catch Dawood Ibrahim. But ‘fate’ (read: naivete) takes them to Bangalore and they become the ploy at the hands of an investigative reporter Shailaja (Taapsee Pannu) and a child trafficker Ram Shetty (Hareesh Peredi). The safety of these children is the question that drives the film forward.
I think there was fear in the mind of director Swaroop RSJ that without the extra layer of child trafficking and an investigative reporter, this film might be too easily compared to Jathi Ratnalu, 2021’s runaway hit about three aimless losers. The audience wouldn’t have been too wrong.
There is a certain ignorance Mishan Impossible bestows upon its protagonists that is similar to the protagonists of Jathi Ratnalu. The three children in this are not exactly mini-me versions of the characters from the latter but maybe these children grow up to be those adults or they grew up in the same neighbourhood.
But that might not have necessarily been a bad thing. Because Swaroop RSJ is most comfortable in the scenes with the children in the first half of the film. He has fun with them and the three child actors are great with their lines. Rarely do we see child actors excel without hamming it.
The dialogues, reaction shots, and music work in perfect harmony to give us a mix of laugh-out-loud moments and smile-at-a-bad-joke moments. It’s never cringe and always in warmth. And it helps that the film is set in a village far off. We buy their innocence. It is the same innocence that helped us buy the charms of Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya because he had set up his Fathima Bureau of Investigation in the gullies of Nellore. Even the idea to get the kids into the big city is a great interval moment to raise stakes. They were silly in a familiar environment but now what will these three goofs be up to.
But it is the investigation and the message-y part of the film that the director is uncomfortable in staging. Taapsee Pannu as an investigative journalist never feels like she’s in any desperate situation. The film wants us to think she’s in trouble or is desperate but we never sense it. This takes away from the film’s goofiness that we bought earlier and slaps us with a reality that we had let go of. Here again Mishan Impossible can borrow from Jathi Ratnalu, which had a plot about murder but somehow that murder also felt silly.
Swaroop wants us to laugh at the children, yet believe the threat of child trafficking. Achieving this convincingly needed a quirkier hand, Mishan Impossible is too straightforward and we feel guilty for laughing. Even Mark Robin’s music which wove the film seamlessly suddenly begins to tear into the screenplay to make us feel a certain mood. Maybe the ‘mission’ needed to be something that director Swaroop could handle. Or maybe there is a lesson or two to be learnt from Tamil filmmaker Nelson Dilipkumar who’s been pushing the envelope of dark in dark comedy.
But for now, the film confirms what Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya proved. Telugu cinema has found a great writer in Swaroop RSJ but to do justice to that writing he will have to either trust other directors with his scripts or the director within him has to catch up soon.