‘Mili’ movie review: This showreel of Janhvi Kapoor stutters after a compelling start 

Director Mathukutty Xavier, who directed the original Malayalam version ‘Helen’, scores once again in pulling at our heart strings and bringing us to the edge of our seats with the way he builds up the story

November 04, 2022 12:07 pm | Updated 01:45 pm IST

Janhvi Kapoor in a still from the movie ‘Mili’

Janhvi Kapoor in a still from the movie ‘Mili’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A remake of the Malayalam film Helen, Mili is a tense survivor drama that manages to spur an emotional upheaval caused by its central conceit, but fails to sustain it. With the original film and a tell-all trailer already in public space, the film’s premise is no longer a surprise and it reduces the what and why of the narrative to just how. Still, director Mathukutty Xavier, who directed the original Malayalam version, scores once again in pulling at our heart strings and bringing us to the edge of our seats with the way he builds up the story.

Mili Naudiyal (Janhvi Kapoor) lives with her father in Dehradun. A trained nurse, she aspires to go abroad, and in the meantime, works at a food joint in a mall. The shift from Kerala to Uttarakhand is convincing as both the states have a strong presence in the paramedical and hospitality industry. Like the Mili of 1975, she brings cheer around her. She has a strong bond with her father (Manoj Pahwa) who has single-handedly raised her and is in a romantic relationship with an enterprising but unemployed Sameer (Sunny Kaushal) who doesn’t belong to her caste.

On an emotionally-difficult day, Mili gets unknowingly locked in the freezer of the shop; how she escapes forms the rest of the story.

She is improving with every author-backed (or we can producer father-backed) role, but Janhvi is still a work in progress. She is endearing in the bittersweet moments with Pahwa and looks the part of a simple yet feisty girl. But when it comes to generating warmth without words in a cold space, Janhvi flounders. She also needs to work on her voice modulation, as it lacks clarity in scenes that emotionally stretches her.

Director: Mathukutty Xavier
Cast: Janhvi Kapoor, Sunny Kaushal, Manoj Pahwa
Storyline: A survival drama that follows a woman stuck in a freezer fighting to stay alive

After a taut build-up, one realises that the screenplay is riddled with just too many coincidences and there is an utter predictability in the proceedings inside and outside the freezer. There are no red herrings around to keep us engaged, and A.R. Rahman’s music doesn’t add much to the atmosphere.

What sustains the momentum are the moments and performances of the supporting actors; the doubt over Sameer’s credibility, the little inside story of the manager (Vikram Kochhar)... these are the little threads that stitch our interest.

Pahwa shines as the ordinary father who is struggling to give up smoking. It is a character that is commonly found in our films and has been played by the likes of Pankaj Tripathi and Kumud Mishra before, but Pahwa makes us feel for Mr Naudiyal. Similarly, Anurag Arora is once again convincing as a police officer who brings his social bias to his work, and in a one-scene role, Jackie Shroff shows how a drunkard doesn’t necessarily be useless for society.

Can’t say that for remakes, these days!

Mili is currently running theatres

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