'Rocketry' review: Truthful depiction steering clear of controversies

R Madhavan's 'Rocketry: The Nambi Effect' to have World Premiere at Cannes Film Fest
Actor Madhavan plays the eponymous character of Indian scientist, Nambi Narayanan, in the film.

The ISRO espionage case remains one of Kerala's most controversial stories of the 1990s. An ISRO scientist, who was at the cusp of his career, is humiliated after being charged with selling classified information about India's cryogenic programme to Pakistan.

The media celebrated the 'spy story' and it became the focal point of a shrewd political agenda.

However, for Nambi Narayanan, the scientist who was accused of espionage, the case was nothing short of a nightmare.

Twenty eight years on, Nambi Narayanan's story continues to evoke the same level of intrigue, just like it did in the 1990s.

After all, Nambi is no ordinary man and the extraordinary challenges he underwent to get justice was unlike another.

'Rocketry: The Nambi Effect', deals with these aspects of the former ISRO scientist's career, while also giving us an insight into his earlier life, several years before the controversy that changed his fortunes.

For R Madhavan, who has reiterated during most of the promotional activities that he was moved by Nambi's tale, it is a perfect directorial debut.

A scene from 'Rocketry: The Nambi Effect'

Though his lack of expertise in direction is evident in some scenes, he manages to create an impact by focusing on several unknown aspects of Nambi's life, like his relationship with former President and co-scientist A P J Abdul Kalam.

He has also taken painstaking efforts to ensure that he sticks to more fact and less fiction, unlike a few directors who have taken the liberty to sensationalise biopics.

This should not be surprising, because Madhavan has always maintained that his main intention to do the movie was to tell Nambi's story as truthfully as possible to the world.

The film is an eye-opener in several aspects. Like Nambi's real role in ISRO and the depth of his passion for developing cryogenic engines that would be a game-changer for India. Also, it is interesting to learn how he was crucial in negotiating deals to purchase the engines from Russia and France and the great lengths he went to accomplish his mission.

Madhavan, as Nambi, has done justice to his role. Simran, who plays Nambi's wife Meena, is a delight to watch, as she goes on from a happy woman to a traumatised wife who faces the pain of the devastating controversies. The remaining cast also do an exemplary job.

Suriya gets to play a journalist, who gets emotional when he hears Nambi's unfortunate tale. Though the circumstances are understandable, the scene comes out as melodramatic. But it is assuring that Madhavan has not resorted much to melodrama in the rest of the film, which has huge scope for high emotion and drama.

Though the film starts with Nambi's arrest, the movie does not dwell in-depth on the aspects of the case. Apart from the cruelty he faced at the hands of the policemen interrogating the case, it does not go beyond that, other than the fact that he was unfairly arrested and jailed. This is where the film looses its footing.

By the end of the film, we still have some questions that are left unanswered. Like why did an organisation like ISRO who backed Nambi in his efforts to negotiate deals with foreign countries not come forward to support him when he was accused in the espionage case. Also, some crucial characters have been left out from the story. Whether it was deliberate or not is unclear, but one thing is evident. That Madhavan took a conscious effort to steer clear of unwanted controversies about a case which was mired with sensationalism.


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