The debutant director's film follows the case of a missing aerospace engineer, who's abducted by 'aliens'
Kiran Srinivas plays the lead in Mandala: The UFO story
Last Updated: 05.34 AM, Mar 11, 2023
Story: When Bharath Space Research Centre aerospace engineer Maya stumbles upon data that points her towards the possibility of UFO sightings and, by extension, alien life, she goes on a solo mission to prove it. To pinpoint its exact location, she sets up sensors linked to a satellite that she manages to put in space during one of the centre’s launch missions. Her action, which came at a great cost for the organization, gets Maya suspended and then, when she gets too close to finding out the truth, she is literally beamed up into a space ship, as her bewildered boyfriend Ajay looks on. When cops do not believe this ‘alien abduction’ theory and Maya’s ex-boss Prakash (Prakash Belawadi), also does not help Ajay search for her, he teams up with a former science and technology reporter, Murthy (Anant Nag) to get to the bottom of the mystery. Can he find out what’s really going on?
Review: Debutant director Ajay Sarpeshkar’s Mandala The UFO Incident is not just a sci-fi mystery thriller about a missing aerospace engineer; it’s an origin story, one that he takes a tad too long to build up to, though. So, eventually, his lead in for a proposed sequel or more, feels rushed. But that should not take away from the fact that this is a film made by someone who has dared to dream big, despite budget limitations.
Mandala The UFO Incident is Ajay’s attempt at creating a ‘universe’ with desi heroes on a mission. This is the prologue, wherein he establishes the major characters of this universe and their roles in the larger scheme of things. This also means that the actual shots of the space ship are minimal, but for a Kannada film, they are, no doubt, impressive. One cannot help but wonder the extents to which Ajay could have gone if he had better backing, and wasn’t running a tight ship. The story is meant to pick up in the next instalment of the film, what with Ajay having planned it as a trilogy, but that, of course, will depend on how audiences receive his film.
If the numbers at the screening I attended are any indication, it is unlikely that Mandala will get the response the team is hoping for. And that, I would say, would be gross injustice to them, considering that they’ve dared to put together a film in a niche genre and presented something so out-of-the-box for Kannada audiences. Yes, the spaceship sequences may seem straight out of a page of Star Trek, with the teleportation a mix of “Beam me up, Scotty”, and the Bifrost (a circular burnt patch at the site) and the proof of alien activity inspired by M Night Shyamalan’s Signs, but it is still commendable that an attempt was made to tell a story that’s different from the routine commercial masala flicks in the market.
Mandala The UFO Incident is based on Ajay’s story, the screenplay of which Prakash Belawadi rewrote with him. The sequences are well knit-together and the dialogues – a mix of English and Kannada – just apt. My only pet peeve is why Ajay chose to make Kiran’s character a supposed ‘chick magnet’, with everyone but Maya wanting to get all touchy-feely with him for some strange reason.
Verdict: Mandala The UFO Incident is strictly for fans of the sci-fi genre only, even though the actual science bits in the narrative are limited. But then again, remember, this is a Kannada film, produced by one man and not a major studios that could throw crores around for the making. Give Mandala… a watch this week, just don’t go in expecting Hollywood level production quality and visuals. Ajay has tried his best and his best is not bad.