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'Mrs Undercover' Review: Radhika Apte Is Really Fighting Against All Odds

'Mrs Undercover' starring Radhika Apte is streaming on Zee5.

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Durga, a homemaker and 'Special Force' agent, is tasked with finding and arresting a serial killer who targets successful women; Mrs Undercover is not a film of subtext. 

'Mrs Undercover' starring Radhika Apte is streaming on Zee5.

Radhika Apte in and as Mrs Undercover.

(Photo Courtesy: Zee5)

There is no problem with silly, goofy cinema – it can often be immensely entertaining. Comedy and horror are also arguably two of the most malleable genres of cinema. And yet, they're notoriously difficult to execute. On paper, the Anushree Mehta directorial Mrs Undercover is a promising premise for insightful commentary about the sinister effect patriarchy has on all it touches.

In execution, it falters. 

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However, none of this criticism is leveled at our main lead.

Radhika Apte puts every bit of her expertise into her act as Durga, a homemaker in Kolkata who was abandoned by her team and is (quite literally) stuck in a horrible marriage.

She pulls at your heartstrings when necessary and uses her comedic timing to elicit laughs in the film’s more comic scenes. 

Saheb Chatterjee as Durga’s husband Deb is appropriately frustrating and does his part in the film well; as does every other person in the cast (shout-out to Laboni Sarkar). They take what they’re given and run with it. Even the way Rajesh Sharma and Apte play off of each other in their scenes is pretty engaging. 

'Mrs Undercover' starring Radhika Apte is streaming on Zee5.

Saheb Chatterjee as Durga’s husband Deb in Mrs Undercover.

(Photo Courtesy: Zee5)

Right off the bat, the film deals with the idea of women trying to escape the confines of patriarchy. Their adversary is the aptly named ‘Common Man’ – in the film it’s a violently misogynist group but the messaging isn’t lost on anyone.

The things that Sumeet Vyas as ‘Common Man’ says are things people get to hear on a daily basis on Twitter threads. This 'group' hates that women are working or (god forbid!) helping other women gain emancipation – familiar? It terrifyingly is.

Vyas as a serial killer is effective in his role because his character challenges the idea that villains are always ‘villainous’ at first look.

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The fact that he comes off as a charming, boy-next-door is what makes his criminal acts more bone-chilling. Even as a harrowed Durga runs her household, she looks clearly exhausted and yet everyone around her acts like it’s “no work” – the film does have a grasp on its basic character work. 

That's why it's a pity that such a refreshing premise is wasted because of a script that doesn't lend itself to intrigue especially since there is high potential for biting satire (or even commentary) in the plot.

'Mrs Undercover' starring Radhika Apte is streaming on Zee5.

Sumeet Vyas in Mrs Undercover.

(Photo Courtesy: Zee5)

Yet, the film falls into the harmful trope of glorifying the back-breaking labour that homemakers have to do on a daily basis, often alone and often in suffocating family dynamics. The ‘aurat ke das haath hote hain’ (a woman has ten hands) rhetoric is outdated and frankly, dangerous.

It’s a phrase people often use to justify the fact that women have to tackle multiple tasks during the day and are expected to not break a sweat. 

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The word ‘housewife’ is used so often that it feels like the film doesn’t trust the audience to understand what it's trying to say. While the film is entertaining, it’s bogged down by a shoddy script. It takes away from the point of a film like Mrs Undercover and you can’t help but compare it to the astute politics of Vidya Balan’s Kahaani. 

'Mrs Undercover' starring Radhika Apte is streaming on Zee5.

Radhika Apte in and as Mrs Undercover.

(Photo Courtesy: Zee5)

The script just doesn’t have the understanding of thrillers required to make one – there are too many loopholes so to speak. If the Special Force is investigating an organisation literally called ‘Common Man’ (read: they’re everywhere), why would the task lead Rangeela (Sharma) be discussing this mission all over Kolkata? The urgency and secrecy expected from an investigative team is missing. 

The lack of this urgency is also apparent in the way the action sequences are shot. DOP Abhimanyu Sengupta captures the essence of Kolkata in wide angles and bright hues but when it comes to action, the camera moves more than it captures and that takes away from the falsified authenticity of the scenes.

'Mrs Undercover' starring Radhika Apte is streaming on Zee5.

A still from Mrs Undercover.

(Photo Courtesy: Zee5)

As with Durga, Radhika Apte seems to be battling all odds to save Mrs Undercover and raise it above its own merit and is perhaps one of the only reasons why the film manages to be an engaging one-time-watch.

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Topics:  Radhika Apte   Sumeet Vyas 

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