Mithun-da’s “Agniputra” had a climactic scene in which Mithun-da’s mother rises from the funeral pyre and dispatches the gloating villains to kingdom come with amazing shaolin moves, then takes off her “mask” and reveals herself to be actually Mithun-da himself.
Thus was born the central thesis of the “Mission Impossible” series of movies where one can seamlessly transition from one person to another by just wearing a mask—Mithunda can become Mithun-da’s mother (everything other than the face is obviously the same), Tom Cruise can become Phillip Seymour Hoffman (an act of modification as sensational as the one from Mithun-da to his mother) and hopefully I can become Hrittik Roshan.
If any more proof of the inspiration of Mithunda in the MI series is needed, kindly sample these very similar expressions of undiluted rage—one from Mission Impossible and one from the M-classic: “Classic Dance of Love”:
From Mission Impossible:
Eugene Kittridge: I understand you’re very upset.
Ethan Hunt: Kittridge, you’ve never seen me very upset.
From Classic Dance of Love:
Dr. Acharya: Yeh mera khoon nahin, krodh ka rang hain. Chatega ise? (This is not my blood, but the color of my rage. Want to lick it?)
Having missed many Mithun classics sitting here in the US, I was determined not to let Mission Impossible 3 pass me by—it being the closest one can get to pure M-class in this country (with apologies to Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal).
MI3 opens like countless Mithun movies with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), the Mithun-da surrogate, tied and bound up, whispering “Aiyeeee salaaaaaaa” in English while the villain threatens to khallas his love-interest unless he tells him the location of the “Khargosh Ka Pa”. (Rabbit’s Foot) as “Come on Come on o Kamachi”, the old Prabhu-deva classic from “Love Birds” plays in the background, specifically the lines: “Murgi ke pet se yahaan nikle khargosh dekhlo” (The rabbit comes out of the chicken’s belly)
Leaving the viewers on the precipice of suspense, “Mission Impossible 3” then flies into a flashback where we get to see the double life of Ethan Hunt: in front of his loving girl-friend and friends, he is truckdriver Sooraj who sings “Chilai Chun Chun” and dances with a bevy of overweight aunties in sylvan surroundings while to the shadowy denizens of the intelligence world, he is simply “Jallad” (the executioner): a force of nature who can crack missions impossible like no one else in the world. With the exception of Rajanikant and Balayya, the God from Guntur. (watch Ballaya rescue a rabbit MI2 style here). [Link courtesy: Joy Forever]
Coming back to the movie, Ethan Hunt is enjoying himself at a party when he is given an urgent mission: to rescue an operative he had trained who has fallen into the hands of the enemy. This operative is a “she”—-in a particularly emotional scene, Ethan Hunt calls her “his sister”. To all M-fans, that means one thing and one thing only. She will die—a horrible death. Which is exactly what happens as Ethan Hunt’s mission to rescue his “sister” fails as Hunt wails in anguish :” Munni meri munni tu mar gayee? Lamboo Atta ne tujhe lamba kar diya, maachis ki tili ko khamba kar diya?”
And as everyone knows, any movie amps up once the sister is dispensed off with. So does MI 3 as the hunt begins for an illusive villain (played with Mukesh Rishi-ian subtlety by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and the super-secret “Rabbit’s Foot” (which despite never being defined in the movie is obviously the floppy disc that contains the names of all secret agents which was the subject of a Mithun movie whose name I have forgotten)—-a hunt that is completed not before the requisite twists (which you can see a mile away), double-cross–the Dhoka, face masks torn apart, breathtaking locales like the Vatican and Monarch Hotel in Ooty, spectacular action sequences and above all some amazing acting from Tom Cruise, particularly where with a bomb stuck up his cavity (cranial) he totters around like a man who has just eaten someone’s placenta (or jokes about it).
A must-see for all Prabhuji fans if only to see how the West is internalizing (in the words of Kaavya Vishwanathan) our best traditions.