“Mishan Impossible” is a picaresque tale of clueless but cute kids hunting “India’s most wanted criminal” to score some cash, set against the ultra-violence of India’s child trafficking epidemic.
It takes forEVER to get started — a 30 minute prologue doesn’t quite kick things off. And writer-director Swaroop Rsj tosses every coincidence, impossible gadget and unlikely piece of police procedure at this teetering, tottering interminable blend of the cutesy and the cruel. It’s a rough ride.
“Mishan” opens with an apparent police-sanctioned/arranged political assassination. Is Shailaja (Taapsee Pannu) — who smirks and strolls away from a murder in the middle of a corrupt candidate’s victory celebration — an undercover cop or “investigative journalist,” as some press releases for the film suggest? Either way, she helped arrange this on-camera murder, and that’s uh, not ethical.
Shaijala and her team of two are taking down or taking out India’s worst of the worst. As she’s able to arrange raids, it’s obvious that she’s a police investigator. But I don’t blame anyone — on or off the subcontinent, in the press or writing up press releases for this hash — for being confused.
It took me over an hour to figure out the lead character’s name.
Because the boys who find themselves mixed up in Shailjala’s sting are three village kids named Raghupathi (Harsh Roshan), Raghava (Bhannu Prakshan) and Rajaram (Jay Jayateertha Molugu). They’re just three dreamers from tiny Vadalamapeta, a village in the middle of nowhere.
Raghu is a school-skipping film fanatic who wants to make movies someday. Ragha is a delusional dunce who longs to make it on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” He gets Raghu to film his audition for the show on his cell phone, with Raghu “directing” the kid’s father and mother about when to cry. And Raja dreams of becoming a famous cricket player, even though he can’t bowl worth a damn.
To fulfill their dreams, they need cash. Maybe hunting down India’s Most Wanted terrorist in Bombay is the solution. They’ll train and scrounge up a little travel money and go there, nab their most-wanted prey and collect the reward.
There’s some confusion about who this fellow is. Raghu figures this photo of a film star he has on his wall looks like him, so that’s what they go on.
The jokes come from their cutesy/clueless “training” (with fireworks) and mission planning. They have no idea where Bombay is. They can’t read a map. They don’t speak Hindi (the film’s mostly in Tegulu, with English subtitles).
“Can you teach us Hindi in three days?” they beseech one educator.
And they keep turning to Ragha, whose “low IQ parents” figure he’s a genius — a lie that’s spread all over town — for answers, answers that are always wrong.
They arrive in Bangalore and Ragha tells them that’s the “old name for Bombay.” Stuff like that. You want to name your plan “Mission: Impossible,” he’s the last one you should turn to for spelling tips.
Meanwhile, the cops are plotting their big score against “industrialist,” politician and child-trafficking mobster Ram Shetty (Hareesh Peradi). Kids are being grabbed left and right. Sooner or later, our intrepid trio will join their ranks.
The director stuffs his picture will details — a child’s mismatched sneakers, kids’ confusion about how to translate centimeters to kilometers off a map, unhappy marriages that produce concerned parents when their child goes missing, careless civil servants and overwhelmed cops.
The tweenage boys elude the police, who are looking for these missing kids. They trick this adult or fool that one. There’s an endless succession of musical montages — village boys plotting, village boys training, village boys traveling without much of an idea of where they’re going.
“I have watched many RGV movies,” Raghu enthuses. “Villains hide in places like this!”
And then they witness a mob murder. We see a little kidnapped girl’s traumatized shock, not even recognizing her father as she’s rescued from sex traffickers.
“Mishan” is an altogether unpleasant blend of tones and stories aimed at wholly different audiences. The picture is all over the place, jumping from locale and point of view (cops, kidnappers, parents, kids) and back and forth in time right up to the closing credits.
Coincidental meetings, the kids transition from clueless dolts into seasoned help-the-cops-by-playing-“bait” operatives and ruthless bad guys turn into total klutzes just when the story needs that.
The kids are pretty good actors, but this clumsy, hacked-together story does nobody any credit.
Call it culture shock if you want, but I was thrown by the “arranged” murder in the first scene and was wrong-footed all the way through it. If you think watching it’s a chore, try watching “Mishan” and taking notes on it — waiting over an hour for the script to identify a character, jotting down the tsunami of syllables that make up even a tiny village’s name.
And I live in Florida, where some people call Thonotosassa, Eucheena, Okahumpka and Wacahoota home.
Let’s just say that I waded through this Swaroop swamp so you don’t have to.
Rating: TV-14, lots of violence
Cast: Harsh Roshan, Bhannu Prakshan, Jay Jayateertha Molugu, Harseeh Peradi and Taapsee Pannu
Credits: Scripted and directed by Swaroop Rsj. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:10