Thank God It Is Friday and we have a lot of work to do with the plethora of new releases. So lets get to them one by one. First up, I finished watching the new Hindi film Mrs Undercover which is now streaming on Zee5. The biggest USP about the film was its title which did evoke a sense of interest instantly. The title did promise to be a gripping spy thriller with undertones of feminism which would potentially make for a good watch.
Over the years, we have associated the spy genre with films in the James Bond franchise or even the Mission Impossible franchise. It had been male dominated and I always wished to see films featuring women as spies and have their own franchise. As they say, why should boys have all the fun! But there still hasn’t been a breakthrough film in this genre featuring women. And one reason for that is the writing of those films that just do not offer much meat to the protagonist and in turn deliver a diluted end product. I haven’t quite figured as to why the writing has been the repeated point of discussion especially when it does come to women being spies in films. That said, I did have hopes from Mrs Undercover considering that it had Radhika Apte at the helm of it. A prolific performer herself, the film was indeed in safe hands and only needed to get the writing part right. So then does Mrs Undercover manage to impress, lets find out!
Story & Screenplay
Mrs Undercover follows the story of a serial killer on the loose who only targets empowered women and hunts them down one by one. This until, a spy turned housewife is assigned the case to get to the bottom of it. The story here is interesting and given its subject, it had the potential to be a thrilling film in the spy genre with high doses of comedy. But it is the screenplay standing at well below 2 hours which is a bit of a mixed bag.
The drama does open with a thrilling sequence wherein you are introduced to the serial killer(yes, this isn’t a whodunnit) as he is seen hunting down his latest victim. We are told that this is his seventeenth victim that makes him a dangerous man on the loose. This chilling sequence is well shot and does set the ball rolling for the rest of the drama. Soon, you are introduced to the protagonist in her full blown avatar as she is seen to beat up a group of men to pulp. What does seem far fetched is given as interesting spin-off of this being a dream sequence. So very early on, the writers have established that this is going to be a thriller with high doses of comedy. And at this point, I was indeed invested.
The proceedings are decent but one of the major flaws here is the execution which is quite flawed. For starters, the writers seem to be in a mad rush while going from point A to point B that doesn’t allow the viewers to be fully invested in the characters. In fact, there is no world building at all and everything just miraculously falls in place in a rather disjointed manner. You needed a calming influence in the script while allowing time to the viewers to soak in the characters and tell them, for instance how dangerous the antagonist is or how difficult it is to track him down. Having said that, the comedy does land particularly in the first half where there are genuine logistical issues of hiring an undercover agent who is a housewife. I did like how the writing tried to equate the modern day patriarchy that is prevalent in our society with the proceedings of the film. A little subplot weaved around the same does make things decently interesting.
But it is the curse of the second hour that does throw the film off track. In the process of tracking down the antagonist, the writing missed the thrill element of the antagonist committing murders. The murders were shown almost as a passing reference that just did dilute the impact of the film. There was no reference of the motivations of the serial killer too as to how did he turn into one. Additionally, the plot also does get garbled to a point that you aren’t invested enough and do not care much about what is transpiring onscreen. The issue did lay with the film not quite focusing on the main plot and instantly going offtrack with other sub-plots. If the planning of the ‘attacks’ was shown(again not in passing) then it would have lead to a better impact.
The concept of a serial killer hunting down educated and empowered women was a clever reference to the society that we live in. But the execution was so flawed that this did not make a lasting impact at all. And there are glaring loopholes in the drama particularly in the events leading up to the final act. In one scene, the character of Radhika Apte is seen shooting down an accomplice of the serial killer in her own house! I wonder how her cover wasn’t blown then and what happened to that body. The final act is just so haphazard and hurried that it made for zero impact. The sequence involving women being equated with goddesses should have been hair-raising but instead you are just privy to a news flash that did put an end to the proceedings(and my misery). The drama does give a hint of a potential climax but I really hope many flaws here are noted and worked upon. Overall, the screenplay here is weak and let down with an even poor execution.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are decent, funny in parts that do make for a decent impact. The music is off and none of the songs standout or have any sort of impact. The BGM also doesn’t exude any sort of confidence. The cinematography could have been so much better but the real culprit is the editing. The action sequences have so many jump cuts that you begin to question on whether the protagonist is actually a trained agent. Even the scene transitions are haphazard and much can be attributed to how poorly the film is cut. Director Anushree Mehta misses the mark with her execution. The sense of assurance was missing and instead you are witness to indecisiveness and unsurety that is reflected through many scenes.
The performances do save the day to an extent but not quite. Roshini Bhattacharya as Aisha has her moments to shine, as does Angana Roy as Kajal and Indrashish Roy as Aditya. Amrita Chattopadhyay as Priyanka is fabulous in that opening act and she does a swell job here. Saheb Chatterjee as Durga’s husband is not a very likable character and it can be attributed to how well he has portrayed his character. Rajesh Sharma as Chief Rangeela is phenomenal and impeccable with his comedy. Sumeet Vyas as The Common Man is well restrained and chilling in his portrayal of a serial killer but again his good performance comes in a substandard product. Radhika Apte as Durga is outstanding and delivers a banging performance. In fact, it is her performance that does make the film watchable throughout. It is another timely reminder on what a phenomenal performer she is!
Mrs Undercover is a sloppy mission which cannot be saved even by a brilliant Radhika Apte with the major flaws being in the writing and its haphazard execution. Available on Zee5.