Actor R Madhavan says 'Rocketry' a national duty, not a commercial venture

Madhavan will be seen in the skin of the eponymous Nambi Narayanan that he has directed and produced. Screengrab

Dubai: Actor R Madhavan, who is turning director with the upcoming biographical drama 'Rocketry: The Nambi Effect', says the movie is his passion project.

With the tagline 'Sometimes a man wronged... is a nation wronged', the film is based on the life of Nambi Narayanan, a former scientist and aerospace engineer of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

In 1994, Narayanan was charged with leaking vital defence secrets to two alleged Maldivian intelligence officers, Mariam Rasheeda and Fauzia Hassan.

The aerospace engineer fought his own case in court and the Supreme Court declared him not guilty in 1996.

"It's not a commercial venture for any of us, it's sort of a national duty and I hope we're able to send the message across," Madhavan told PTI on the sidelines of the Media and Entertainment Fortnight during the EXPO2020 Dubai at India Pavilion here.

The 51-year-old actor said when he went to meet Narayanan for the film, like many people, he also just knew about the controversy and legal case.

"They told me that there is a scientist in Kerala who was wrongly accused of having an affair with a Maldivian woman. He fought his own case and he became victorious. That was the only story I had heard and what most of India knows about Nambi Narayanan," he said.

At that time, the "3 Idiots" star said he presumed that this biopic would give him a chance to do a 'James Bond-like' film with women and action, something he hadn't done before.

But he couldn't have been more wrong about how he approached Narayanan's story, he said.

"I knew there was something terribly wrong with my approach the moment I met him. There was so much more to this story. There was angst in his eyes. Interestingly, Nambi sir was not talking about his achievements, he was only talking about the case."

Narayanan only wanted the story around his case to see the light of day, Madhavan pointed out.

Asked if after the film's worldwide theatrical release on July 1 "Rocketry" will head to any OTT platform, the actor-filmmaker said this movie will be "exploited in all the avenues possible".

Madhavan, an engineer by qualification, also said he knew he was being "assessed" by the science veteran, who even threw some questions at him to test his ability to understand the physics behind rocketry.

Narayanan, 80, said while he met Madhavan for the first time for the film, he knew about his filmography.

"I knew quite a bit about him from his 'Alaipayuthey' days I know his movies. It is one of the films that I very much liked," the former aerospace engineer said.

Narayanan said he has watched the film and he is happy with how it has turned out.

"I have watched the film. I was on the set most of the time looking at what was being shot and directed. The script was thoroughly discussed among ourselves. Madhavan did extremely well," the Padma Bhushan recipient added.

Madhavan also said the country missed out on the opportunity of acknowledging Narayanan.

"Had there been some other country, he would be called a national asset, there would be bodyguards and bulletproof cars around him."

After working the script for seven months, Madhavan said he rewrote the story when Narayanan told him in passing that he had earned a NASA fellowship and was accepted into the prestigious Princeton University in 1969.

"I just knew I had to throw my script away, and that's what I did. And I'm glad I did that," the actor said.

There are six versions of this film, he said.

"We have shot the film in English, Hindi, Tamil, and dubbed it in Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada. So there are six versions, six censor certificates, and six convincings to do which is why I am saying I was pregnant with six films," Madhavan quipped.

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