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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Missing, Review: You aren’t missing anything

Missing, Review: You aren’t missing anything

It’s a confessional title and admission of guilt, for there is a lot that is missing in this film, a credible plot to begin with. Crisp editing and some good performances cannot rescue Missing, a psychological thriller that isn’t. Like one character in the film, who takes everybody for a huge ride, the makers have decided to inflict the same punishment on the audience. The fact that persons of the calibre of Neeraj Pandey (director: A Wednesday) and lead actor Manoj Bajpayee have co-produced the movie raises serious doubts their ability to choose meaningful subjects and churn out sensible cinema.

After a ship journey in the same cabin, Sushant Dubey and Aparna (Manoj Bajpayee and Tabu) check into a beach resort in Mauritius. One night, after they make love in the other room, Aparna starts searching around and tells Sushant that her three-year-old daughter, Titli, who was accompanying them and who had high fever, has disappeared. When they cannot find her anywhere, they inform the hotel staff, and a hunt is launched. But that only leads them to a wild goose chase, in which they narrow down to a suspect, only to find that the girl seen with him is not Titli.

A Mauritius Police Official of Indian ancestry, Ramkhilawan Buddu, better known by his nickname Mr. 100 % (Annu Kapoor), given his track record of solving all the cases he worked on, investigates the case. The cop is convinced that there’s something fishy about how Dubey is reacting to the entire episode, compared the reaction of Aparna, who is much more distraught. During the investigation, Buddu finds Sushant and Aparna giving completely contrasting statements. It also appears that Aparna is not Sushant’s wife. So, whatever happened to Titli?

Having written the film himself, debutant director Mukul Abhyankar must take all the blame, gracefully, if possible. He was a student in Germany when he wrote the story, 20 years ago. His first brush with cinema came with the German film Heidengeld (1997), written, directed and edited by Dagmar Kamlah. Abhyankar was the assistant director/second unit director in the film. In India, he worked in television for about 15 years, before making his big screen entry. Citing Alfred Hitchcock as his idol (could Missing have been inspired by Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train-1951, given that we have strangers on a ship?), Abhyankar had completed two more films, both ‘thrillers’, but in differing styles. If Missing is anything to go by, Hitchcock’s soul might not be very pleased with the misadventures his umpteenth follower.

Red herrings strewn around are de rigueur in whodunits, but you cannot con the audience and hope to impress them. Halfway through the film, the narrative was in a complete mess, and the only hope of redemption was a well thought out end, perhaps followed by a denouement.

What we got instead was more convoluted than we could ever imagine. Okay, so a couple of key questions were answered, but so many were still hanging in the air as we trundled out of the auditorium.

Q.1. Why does a three-year-old girl with high fever not make a single sound in 12 hours, and nobody finds this suspicious?

Q. 2. How is it that a Mauritian policeman speaks fluent Hindi with everyone, including the lead actor pair, and only adds French words like “Madame” and “Allez vite” (let us go quickly) for effect? How is it that this entire force speaks fluent Hindi?

Q. 3. The Policeman examines ship tickets carefully but why does he fail to check the names of the passengers?

Q. 4. He verifies the family antecedents of one of the pair, so why does he not do the same with the other?

Q. 5. Why did the Policeman not search the suite thoroughly, and if he did, why did he not find the large amount of medicines and a meat cleaver. If he had done so, he could have solved the case in minutes.

Q. 6. Was a baby crying or not? If so, how was it that nobody knew where the sounds were coming from?

Q. 7. A suspect is found with a baby-girl who turns out to be his own daughter, or so he claims. Would any ace detective let him off the hook merely on his word?

There are many more inaccuracies and inconsistencies, and the pair are inveterate liars, but enough for the day.

Abhyankar succeeds in getting Tabu into the groove, and the supporting cast too, but Manoj is made to go overboard. Some camerawork and editing cuts were well executed, and the background music was well-composed, though used only to create a false sense of foreboding and excitement.

Manoj Bajpayee’s eponymous film production banner co-produced the film, which is also the banner's first co-production. Bajpayee and Tabu are reunited in this film after eighteen years, last seen together in Ghaath (2018). They make a good pair. Missing does a humongous disfavour to them by casting them in a film filled with so many holes. Tabu rises above her character, underplaying and tuning up with demands of each scene. Bajpayee, his suspect diction notwithstanding, is a competent actor and makes a good beginning, only to get lost in the hackneyed melodrama. Annu Kapoor learnt French for the role, not that it mattered, considering all he mouthed was ‘un peu’. Shruti Gupta is good as the hotel receptionist. Names of the rest of the cast are not listed anywhere on the net.

Music by M. M. Kreem (Keeravani) is well devised, though badly used, with the rhythm creating an ambient thrill where, often, there was none. Cinematography Sudeep Chatterjee and Editing by Shree Narayan Singh are uniformly good.

There was a Costa-Gavras directed Missing in 1982, and there is this one 36 year later!

Quite like the missing girl in the film, Missing might find audiences missing from cinema halls. Believe me, you aren’t missing anything

Rating: * ½


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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