Showbiz / Akshay Kumar Of ‘Mission Mangal’ Tells Us Why Supporting STEM Dreams Matter

Akshay Kumar Of ‘Mission Mangal’ Tells Us Why Supporting STEM Dreams Matter

Showbiz Aug 14, 2019

With his latest film Mission Mangal — inspired by the true story of India’s 2014 Mars Orbitor Mission (also known as the “Mangalyaan”) — Akshay Kumar chatted with us about the importance of India’s place in the global space exploration movement, his socially conscious cinematic choices and why you should follow your dreams — no matter what.


Hina P. Ansari: You have played major roles in films that have a woman-focused activism angle to it, an obvious example is your highly acclaimed role in Pad Man. What attracted you to Mission Mangal?

Akshay Kumar: That’s true, I have worked on films in the past which revolve around ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I was drawn to Mission Mangal because of the amazing facts attached to the mission. We launched a satellite to Mars in the quickest amount of time and in the smallest budget in comparison to NASA, China and Russia. This was made possible because of the incredible teamwork by both the men and women involved in the mission.

Through this film we have shown that when we truly put our minds toward something with enough passion, we can achieve it. Anything is possible as long as you know you can do it. The film will resonate with the young and old and I would want parents to take their children to watch this film. Maybe the film will inspire more of our children to want to become scientists!


HPA: Tell me more about this unique film and your role in it. 

AK: Mission Mangal is the incredible true story of India’s first space mission to Mars, which made the country’s scientific and space dreams a reality. A team of incredible scientists battle personal and professional challenges to work together, using their intelligence, experience and revolutionary thought to give success to India’s first mission to Mars. I play a scientist called Rakesh Dhawan, the mission director, who alongside Tara Shinde played by Vidya Balan, is in-charge of leading the team that are behind the mission. The film is a testimony of teamwork of these incredible scientists who worked together to achieve what was touted as an impossible feat and inspire generations to follow.

Akshay Kumar in Mission Mangal
Akshay Kumar in Mission Mangal. Photo Credit: Fox Star Studios


HPA: It seems that 2019 is the Year of  Space Exploration for India. The timing of this film’s release is hot off the heels of India’s latest space program’s successful moon mission with the Chandrayaar 2, how do you feel about this amazing coincidence? 

AK: When [director] Jagan [Shakti] narrated the script, he told me astonishing facts that really surprised me. We also discovered several eye-opening facts while shooting the film and it only made all of us even more proud of our nation, and the incredible expertise we have in the field of science. The success of India’s moon mission will absolutely create more buzz around the film. I love that the conversation is continuing about India’s role in space science. The launch of the Indian satellite was a major feat, but today’s mars mission is a reflection not only of India’s accomplishments, but India’s staying power as a great leader in science.


HPA: The recent moon mission with the Chandrayaar 2 was helmed by Muthaya Vanitha, the project director, and Ritu Karidhal, the mission director. The Mangalyaan/Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) of 2014 also deeply relied on the work of the female rocket scientists at  The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Do you hope that these events (your film and India’s recent space exploration missions) increases the awareness and encourages girls to follow their STEM dreams?

AK: Whilst the Mars Mission of 2014 was a joint effort between both male and female team members, one of the things that really caught the public’s attention when photos from the Mangalyaan mission were released was one particular photo of these sari-clad women from ISRO, and what an impact it made 🙂

Mission Mangal has demonstrated that women can be successful in careers they are not usually seen in such as that of a space scientist, which are traditionally and wrongly deemed as unconventional for them. I hope with our film we manage to smash some glass ceilings and demonstrate that science is a great and rewarding profession to be in, inspiring more women (and even men!) to consider the profession, without letting any preconceptions of what they are and not capable of govern their decisions.  We also hope the film will educate people around us that women should not be held back from pursuing any career, especially in STEM professions, especially when this is a result of stereotypical views.

As I mentioned, I am glad that the film is releasing around the same times as ISRO’s launch of Chandrayaan 2, which is purely coincidental. In fact another great coincidence, which we honestly did not plan, is that the day the film is releasing, that being 15th August 2019, also happens to be the 50th anniversary of ISRO 🙂 Coming back to your question, with the media pro-actively promoting this incredible initiative, people have become more aware of the importance of the people involved in the profession, which will give anyone a great sense of pride.


Akshay Kumar in Mission Mangal
Akshay Kumar in Mission Mangal. Photo Credit: Fox Star Studios


HPA: In a recent Condé Nast Traveller article they interviewed Nandini Harinath, who served as deputy operations director on MOM. She noted her mother’s support (where she relocated for a month at a time to help) in addition to other scientists at ISRO who also noted their overall web of support from their in-laws, husbands etc. who all stepped in to help them on their various missions. What’s the importance of understanding the overall support system needed so women can continue to break barriers in the space program?

AK: As our society is predominantly patriarchal, fundamental grass-root changes need to be made in the realm of gender equality, in order for women to overcome any obstacles in their personal and professional growth. Integral to this change is to ensure values and belief systems that promote equalitarian values are instilled in girls and women from an early age, by members who form their support system such as friends and family, as what we learn at a young age will impinge on how we think, act and what we believe later in life. As our society is deep rooted in orthodox values when it comes to the position of women and girls in society, it is important that their support system is empowering to avoid deterring girls and women from achieving the extraordinary.

Any profession requires a certain amount of labour, be it physical or mental, and women can only participate wholeheartedly if they are freed from the burden of their domestic responsibilities. In such a scenario it really helps to have a supportive husband and in-laws so that even married women can excel in the professional space without having to worry about domestic duties.


Akshay Kumar in Mission Mangal
The cast of Mission Mangal. Photo Credit: Fox Star Studios


HPA: What advice would you give to your younger female fans with respect to following their STEM dreams given the cultural resistance that they may face?

AK: I feel that everyone, be it a man or woman, should keep striving for excellence, pushing their boundaries in whatever career path they have chosen. There will be hurdles along the way, but they need to overcome it with their willpower and determination. The key is to keep challenging yourself as you become stronger and learn just how much you are capable of. This is the belief that I personally abide by and I would want all my fans — young, old, male or female to follow too.


Starring Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu and Sonakshi Sinha, MISSION MANGAL releases in theaters all across North America this Thursday August 15 and local showtimes have just been announced.

 Find US showtimes:

 Find Canada showtimes:



Main Image Photo Credit: Fox Star Studios




Hina P. Ansari

Hina P. Ansari


Hina P. Ansari is a graduate from The University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario). Since then she has carved a successful career in Canada's national fashion-publishing world as the Entertainment/Photo Editor at FLARE Magazine, Canada's national fashion magazine. She was the first South Asian in...


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