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The ‘Mili’ Deep Freeze: If Only Janhvi Kapoor Had Switched On Her iPhone Tracking

The ‘Mili’ Deep Freeze: If Only Janhvi Kapoor Had Switched On Her iPhone Tracking

  • Even Jackie Shroff’s cameo cannot warm up the film about a damsel in distress in a walk-in freezer.

Produced by Boney Kapoor and Zee Studios, “Mili” is a 2022 Hindi remake of the 2019 Malayalam film “Helen.” Janhvi Kapoor plays Mili Naudiyal, a 24-year-old nursing graduate from Dehradun, with aspirations to secure a nursing job in Canada. She is a sweet unassuming “girl next door.” A sincere student, and works at a local fast food restaurant in the food court in a mall. Mili is learning conversational English and is the family’s medical consultant of sorts, encouraging her dad to quit smoking. Has a good work ethic. She is helpful to her colleagues. Mili is aware of safety issues, her father drops her to work in the morning and she generally has a friend drop her back home at night because the auto drivers can be creepy. All is going as per plan, till things unravel in a hurry. She gets locked inside the walk-in freezer of her restaurant, and for several hours no one knows where she is.

“Mili” is directed by Mathukutty Xavier, who also directs this 2022 survival horror/ tragedy mishmash. There was no need to make this movie if certain safety features we take for granted in the West were in place. 

The girl is missing: So why can’t friends/families track her phone? (looks like they all have iPhones or trackable phones with all the bells and whistles) If the widowed father Niranjan Naudiyal (Manoj Pahwa) is very fond of his daughter, why does he allow her to work so late at night? Being a middle-class Indian father, he is beside himself with rage when he discovers that his 24-year-old daughter is arrested for coming home late at night with her boyfriend (Sunny Kaushal) who has had a celebratory beer. Surely he could have made arrangements to pick her up from work himself?  

It is odd that Mili only calls her dad and her boyfriend to alert them that she has been locked up in the freezer. Does she have no other emergency contacts? Why does she not call the manager of the restaurant? Is there no “911” service in the area? Why does the freezer alarm not go off? Why is the CCTV footage not accessible? Why is there not a buddy system to check if everyone reached home safely? I remember talking to workers at the Mumbai airport McDonald’s recently on my trip to India to figure out how they went home late at night. McDonald’s was the only place open at eleven o’clock. There are several such obvious flaws in the plot that make you scream but without these “mistakes” there would be no “Mili.”

I liked Janhvi’s spunk in her role as Gunjan Saxena in “The Kargil Girl,” but in “Mili” she seems a bit dispirited.

Regardless, the clock ticking, temperature dropping sequence generates tension after the mall shuts down, lights go off and the girl finds herself trapped in a severe cold. I understand that claustrophobia is really disturbing. To be caught in a minus 17-degree freezer can be like a near-death experience, but the unhurried pace of the investigation to find a missing young girl in the middle of the night is frustrating. More aggravating is the prevalent apathetic attitudes toward women. 

The manager justifies his existence by bullying his employees and takes out his domestic maladies by cutting sadistic remarks about Mili. Even worse is the sadist police officer, who handles the entire investigation in a revolting, apathetic manner. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that disgusting people like this are a part of law enforcement.

Other movies that play on claustrophobia are “Apollo 13,” the clock-ticking saga that highlights the horrendous journey of astronauts trapped in space. In the movie “Descent,” friends crawling through collapsing caves is very nerve-racking, indeed. I am not a fan of this genre, although I enjoyed “Apollo 13” because I experience fear of closed spaces in crowded rooms, elevators and dark stairwells. 

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So, I took my time to watch “Mili” on Netflix. I saw it in broad daylight in an airy room and kept fast forwarding the horrible metallic soundtrack of seconds ticking as Janhvi Kapoor tried to save herself from frostbite in a thin uniform, cotton kurta and insulating film. The insulation material reminded me of the blankets given to “kids in cages” at the border and so I had to scurry past that. I liked Janhvi’s spunk in her role as Gunjan Saxena in “The Kargil Girl,” but in “Mili” she seems a bit dispirited. She seems pretty calm in the hospital having escaped a near-death experience. And readily shrugs off her dream to go to Canada. 

Perhaps, she is happy with the fact that the two significant male members of her life have established a camaraderie. (A difficult task to achieve with Indian men). The only light moment in the film is when the father-daughter go out for the movie in a theater, without the dad realizing that the boy sitting on the other side of his daughter is Mili’s boyfriend Sameer and not her best friend who is always texting her “Sameera.” By the way, I think I saw Jackie Shroff in the film, but his guest appearance does not help the movie.

With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM and the Princess Theater.

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