Mrs Undercover (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – A simple Indian housewife who is in fact a special undercover agent is called back on the job after 10 years of being undercover to take down a terrifying, psycho killer while maintaining her parallel life of a housewife.

My Take – Considering the massive success Pathaan (2023) has been, Indian cinema, particularly the Hindi belt, is undoubtedly going to witness an onslaught of spy stories in the next few years.

The latest to immediately join the espionage bandwagon is debut director Anushree Mehta’s spy-comedy which showed immediate potential with its concept and strong messaging. The fact that its story is laced with feel-good humor could have set it apart from the other spy films. It is however, unfortunate how it is never able to quite find its bearings.

The story just lacks the finesse that can keep you engaged, and hops on from one tone-deaf exposition to another, with tacky production design and hurried editing. The concept and the overarching context of the film, right down to its loud and wobbly climax, neither has a personality nor curiosity.

Though an earnest Radhika Apte in the lead role tries to weave the tonally confusing film into a consistent narrative, it is just too silly to be taken seriously, though it aims to be exactly opposite, while being is riddled with own set of tone-deaf characterizations.

The story follows Durga (Radhika Apte), a regular middle-class homemaker, who spends her days taking care of everyone in her family, which comprises of her sexist and unappreciative husband (Saheb Chatterjee), a school-going son and in-laws (Biswajeet Chakraborty and Laboni Sarkar). She wakes up early in the morning to begin her household chores and is the last member in the family to go off to sleep after wrapping up everything.

But unknown to everyone, under the subservient homemaker Durga is a special force agent code-named 091, who went undercover years ago and actually got married into this particular family as a cover. A cover, she accepted hesitantly, but eventually grew into living as her own.

That is until she is approached by Rangeela (Rajesh Sharma), the chief of Special Forces, who wants us her to track down The Common Man (Sumeet Vyas), a serial killer who has been been ruthlessly murdering strong, independent and empowered women all over the country, and is now in her city, Kolkata. With only rusty skills and a whole lot of reluctance on her side, Durga is left with no option but to re-enter a world that had long forgotten her.

The film starts off on a high by opening with the brutal murder of a female lawyer by the serial killer, who calls himself Common Man. But while the scene is inherently quite unnerving, the rest of the film doesn’t quite reach its potential as the execution is mediocre.

Here, writer-director Anushree Mehta and co-writer Abir Sengupta try to encapsulate a lot into the film, that too with very good intent. They challenge the misogyny ingrained in some chauvinists and question the resistance of a section of the society against progressing women.

The film tries to tackle several issues, right from infidelity to the challenges faced by a housewife, all at once. And this proves to be its biggest undoing, as none of the subplots has been fleshed out properly and the film just insists on lamenting about the general lack of appreciation for the homemaker. Every creative decision the screenplay takes on to press on its themes of empowerment turns into a tonal misfire.

Out of nowhere Durga enrolls in a women empowerment program at a women’s college where our serial killer arrives as the main coordinator. Then Durga realizes her husband is a cheater, and wants out of the whole program itself. Moreover, most of the characters feel one-dimensional. Their backstories are never really shown in detail, which makes it difficult to relate to them. The writers needed to do a better job of setting up the film’s world.

The most significant blow to the core of the film is the fact that it struggles to shift between genres and suffers by blending into many. It begins as a thriller, and navigates towards comedy, only to end with a monologue concluding a satire. Sure, there are flashes of smart writing.

Funny, too, are Rangeela’s multiple get ups, and his solution of poking holes into a newspaper to keep watch during a stake-out. And what works for the film is its one-liner concept of a homemaker who is actually an undercover spy. They are unassuming simple people and are dealing with spouses who may or may not have cheated on them. But it is the treatment of the concept that makes it fall flat.

Radhika Apte, who is always a compelling presence, is utterly wasted in a lackluster film. An artist of the caliber and stature of Radhika doesn’t get to bring her true potential to the table. Having said that, her subdued and straight-faced humor does crack you up but those scenes are far and few in between.

Sumeet Vyas is naturally likable and seems too unconvincing as a serial killer. Revealing what drove his dark psyche would have gone a long way in making his villain a realistic character. He tries his level best to lift what ends up being a generic character with virtually no layers and no impact.

Rajesh Sharma shines despite being burdened with a one-dimensional character. In other roles, Laboni Sarkar, Saheb Chatterjee and Biswajeet Chakraborty are alright. On the whole, ‘Mrs Undercover’ is an amateurish spy comedy that suffers from mediocre writing and tonal imbalance.

Directed –

Starring – Radhika Apte, Sumeet Vyas, Rajesh Sharma

Rated – PG

Run Time – 107 minutes

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