What happens to humans trapped in sub-zero temperature? Mili, the Hindi remake of the Malayalam film Helen, makes us helpless witnesses to the horrors its lead character suffers — the dawning realisation that she is all alone in a fast-food outlet’s walk-in freezer, that no one can hear her desperate cries for help as the eatery’s doors are locked, and that the mall it is situated in has gone dark and deserted for the night.
Mili’s plight is frighteningly plausible. Human error and carelessness is a deadly cocktail, and that’s how she finds herself trapped, her extremities turning colour as the hours go by, first red, then black, with frost-bite, her entire body buffeted by the extreme cold. Will she get through the night?
Survival thrillers can be edge-of-the-seat experiences, where along with the impossible situations intrepid humans find themselves in– trapped in narrow snowy crevices where they have to chop off a limb to be able to survive, or gnawing at unmentionable things while stranded on an island– the astonishing resilience of the human spirit is celebrated. The best ones know how to ratchet the tension, building up just the right rhythm. ‘Mili’, helmed by the same director who did the 2019 Malayalam original, is too long. The pace slackens in places, and the bloat becomes the problem.
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There are interesting details in here. Dehradun-based Mili Naudiyal (Janhvi Kapoor) is a dutiful daughter. Loving father (Manoj Pahwa) shares her dreams– leaving for Canada for a well-paid job as a trained nurse– while being oblivious to the secret presence of a jobless boy-friend (Sunny Kaushal). The manager (Kochchar) at the fast-food joint she works at is a bumptious boor. Her colleagues are friendly, though, especially Hasleen (Hasleen Kaur) who looks out for her.
What’s also interesting is the misogyny that manages to come through while the search for the missing Mili is on. A blustering cop (Anurag Arora) loses no opportunity to cast slurs on young women who are out ‘at night’ with their boy-friends, and who work late. But he is annoyingly heavy-handed, and the insertion of a good cop (Sanjay Suri) who arrives in the nick of time, feels like a hurried contrivance.
As Mili, who learns how to survive impossible odds, with a lovable little rodent for company, Kapoor is earnest, and you can see the work she has put in. The film should have been tighter, and that would have made it better: my heart was in my mouth too few times.
Mili movie cast: Manoj Pahwa, Janhvi Kapoor, Sunny Kaushal, Rajesh Jais, Vikram Kochchar, Hasleen Kaur, Anurag Arora, Sanjay Suri
Mili movie director: Xavier Mathukutty
Mili movie rating: 2 stars