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Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Nithya Menen and Kirti Kulhari Image Credit: PTI

Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Nithya Menen and Kirti Kulhari are set to recreate the iconic team of women who executed Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) of November 2013, in the Indian Independence Day release, ‘Mission Mangal’.

“‘Mission Mangal’, a film which I hope will inspire as much as entertain. A film which I’ve done specially for my daughter and children her age to familiarise them with the incredible true story of India’s mission to Mars!” Akshay Kumar had earlier tweeted.

In reality, it was the women associated with the mission who played an instrumental role in the project. Ritu Karidhal and Nandini Harinath were the deputy operations director of the Mars mission, served as deputy operations director on the Mars Orbiter Mission. Karidhal is a Master’s degree holder in Aerospace Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

Another important member was Anuradha TK, a Geosat Programme Director at Isro Satellite Centre.

The film is based on an inspiring real incident, but the script has taken a few liberties for the sake of drama. It is positioned as a fictional story, and all the characters and their names have been changed.

The programme director in real life was M Annadurai. In the film, Balan will be seen essaying the project director while Kumar plays mission director.

The film’s female cast, however, is powering its story with pivotal roles. Apart from Balan, Sinha plays the scientist in charge of the propulsion control. Pannu essays the person in charge of navigation and communication. South Indian star Nithya’s role is to take charge of the satellite design, while Kulhari plays the person in charge of Programme Autonomy.

“It’s based on true events but the characters are not specific to particular scientists. There are different posts and characters assigned for each post. I haven’t met the people who were part of the mission, but since I belong to a science background — I have completed my engineering — I am familiar with the terms and theories that have been used in the film,” Pannu said.

The trailer of the film, directed by Jagan Shakti, was unveiled in Mumbai on July 18.

Speaking about the film, Nithya said: “I don’t think we have exaggerated the presence of women and their contribution because it is true that in the real mission, there were many women who contributed. My aunt is a scientist and she also works in ISRO. There are many female scientists working there.”

Referring to the image where some of ISRO’s women staff, in saris, are seen smiling and congratulating each other, Nithya said: “You remember that famous photo that came out after the success of the mission? It was of women celebrating the success. Our film is inspired by that story.”

Seconding her thought, Balan shared: “After the success of Mangalyaan that photo was published in a newspaper. I noticed how regular those women were — someone is a homemaker. They are regular people and they were part of the mission.”

“If you do a Google search, you will get to see that those women were the backbone of the mission. It really makes us feel proud, so those female characters in the film are not just celebrating women empowerment but also recreating what happened in the past. We are proud to represent those heroes of our country,” Sinha added.

Pannu said they have tried to recreate that image in the film. “We show less of those women and their back stories in the film, because we had a time limit of two hours,” she explained.

‘Mission Mangal’ is set to release on August 15.