At one point, completely perplexed and unable to distinguish the truth from the untruths, investigating officer (played by Annu Kapoor) says in exasperation, “It’s illogical”. He could have said it in English, Hindi, French or Bhojpuri (the languages of Mauritius) and he would have been right every time. Missing is missing a semblance of logic.Thankfully you have Tabu and Manoj Bajpayee at the centre of this thriller. Writer-director Mukul Abhyankar’s story, which pivots around the case of a missing child, has more twists than a corkscrew.
But let me rewind.
The film opens with a scene featuring Bajpayee cajoling a character locked behind a door. He reveals he is heading off on a business trip. He speaks to a child, also off camera, and reassures the child that mom and dad are not fighting. Next, we see Bajpayee coming off a ship accompanied by a woman who is holding a child swathed in blankets. They check into a fancy resort in Mauritius where the drama begins to unfold. The three-year-old Titli is apparently unwell and therefore asleep the whole time.
On awaking the next morning, Sushant (Bajpayee) and Aparna (Tabu) discover that the child is missing, gone from her bed. The hotel is rather unperturbed, Sushant seems more concerned about reputations – his and the resorts. Only Aparna is panicking. The cops are called in, with a team led by Ramkhilavan Buddhu (Kapoor), depicted to be a man with an impeccable track record in crime solving. However his methods in the case of the missing child are as efficient as a leaky tap.
The smattering of French words (such as s’il vous plait and allez vuit) used by Kapoor is a highlight of Missing, evoking involuntary giggles. He even pops in a random Bhojpuri phrase here and there, making him the only character in Abhyankar’s Port Louis who might be authentically Mauritian, albeit better suited to a comedy show.
The inadvertent humour aside, one of the primary flaws in Missing is that the story peaks too early. If you are well schooled in the genre, you can see one major diversionary tactic early on. The second biggest twist comes so early that the rest of the plot scampers around senselessly becoming simply a tale of lies and cheats.
The singular draw of Missing is its central characters. Bajpayee delivers Sushant as a man who is a compulsive but most likely an unsuccessful flirt. He gives little away as his character spins highly creative lies. As much as Bajpayee teases in some mischief into Sushant (flashes of his Kaun character creep in), Tabu plays Aparna with the anguish of a mother whose child has disappeared. Thus, she provides emotional heft to the mostly messy proceedings that culminate in an absurd climax.
As suspicions fall on other hotel guests, accusations fly thick and fast and stories change every few minutes, like Kapoor, we too are left exclaiming Mon Dieu!