Loosely based on the true-life event of India’s Mangalyaan launch, Ekta Kapoor’s web series, Mission Over Mars (M.O.M.), follows four scientists as they navigate through dramatic hurdles ranging from a near impossible budget crunch, an equally challenging time crunch and uncooperative politicians to launch failures. Unlike the Bollywood biggie Mission Mangal, to my delight, all the lead characters of this eight episode series are women. It has been directed by Vinay Waikul and written by him and Sambit Mishra for the online streaming platform ALTBalaji and Zee5.
Director: Vinay Waikul
Cast: Sakshi Tanwar, Mona Singh, Palomi Ghosh, Nidhi Singh
ISRO becomes ISA and NASA becomes ASI for the purpose of the show. M.O.M distances itself from the scientific work of these places to focus on personal lives and administrative issues. Mona Singh plays Momita Ghosh, a hot headed and ambitious scientist who narrates the series, beginning with her story of dreaming to become a scientist as a girl living in a small village. As a scientist at ISA, she is blamed for the failure of Chandrayaan mission and is eager for an opportunity to prove herself. Sakshi Tanwar plays Nandita Das who is initially given the responsibility to prepare the budget for the Mars mission, only because her superior sees it as a doomed pursuit, a project that can never get funding. However, when it does get funding, she becomes the mission coordinator and we see her as a calm and efficient leader, the backbone of the mission.
Loosely based on the true-life event of India’s Mangalyaan launch, Ekta Kapoor’s web series, Mission Over Mars (M.O.M.), follows four scientists as they navigate through dramatic hurdles
Palomi Ghosh plays Meghan, a brilliant engineer who takes nutrient pills instead of eating food to deal with her 15 hour shifts and Nidhi Singh plays Neetu, a god fearing mathematics genius, both characters adding a touch of comic relief in an otherwise tense story. My favourite moment in the series is when Neetu, a quiet, shy and soft-spoken person makes a bold and powerful statement, that the success of their mission depends on the math done, which will never be wrong, till she is in charge.
All the characters are also struggling with motherhood. Neetu struggles to plan her pregnancy around an uncertain mission timeline. Nandita bugs her son’s phone to keep a track on him and is very concerned about his career, wanting him to become and engineer while he wants to become a cricketer. She confesses to her son that being a working mother is a huge challenge for her. Momita is often criticised for her ambition and feels very guilty when she forgets her daughter’s birthday. It is almost sad to see that we only hear her ex-husband explain their divorce citing her ambition and hot headedness as the reason. We never hear her side. There is a scene where Momita’s daughter makes her Maggi while she is working late at night, a role reversal I found refreshing.
THIS SERIES HAS SUCCESSFULLY BROUGHT OUT SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT WORKING WOMEN FACE. HOWEVER MOST FAMILIES ARE SHOWN TO BE EXTREMELY SUPPORTIVE, A GREAT ROLE MODEL PERHAPS FOR THOSE WATCHING, BUT NOT A VERY REAL PORTRAYAL.
The film runs high on nationalism as the scientists are keen to work for the country. Momita befriends a co-worker who has come back from America and goes on to suggest that the work Momita’s team is doing should be outsourced to the USA, leaving her feeling betrayed. Her befriending an untrustworthy American seems a bit stereotypical, the show could have done better. Another instance is when the team is shown pictures of poor Indians, including farmers, telling them that these are the people whose dreams they work for. I found this unsettling because I highly doubt that a satellite on mars is every Indians dream. (I have no way of knowing, just like the creators of this show.) It felt like an appropriation of the image of poverty to drive viewer emotions.
This series has successfully brought out some of the challenges that working women face. However most families are shown to be extremely supportive, a great role model perhaps for those watching, but not a very real portrayal. I have grown up watching Sakshi Tanvar and Mona Singh in TV serials and it was incredible to see them play primarily professional roles.
In this show, not only the full form of MOM becomes mission over mars but a mom also becomes someone who is not solely defined by motherhood, she is a brilliant scientist. It a deeply engaging show with an interesting plot that unfolds at a fast pace. If that is not reason enough for you to watch it, I assure you, the sense of power and pride you feel every time the four women walk together at the centre of the screen, will be worth your time.
Featured Image Source: Fuzion Productions