'Rocketry: The Nambi Effect' is a biographical drama film. The movie releases in theatres on July 1 in multiple languages.
The year is 2018. Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan (played by R Madhavan) is ready to be interviewed by a celebrity (actor Suriya plays himself). As the interview starts, the former scientist narrates his journey from the early days of being a scientist at ISRO.
The segment where Nambi narrates how he and five others were falsely accused of espionage and transferring rocket technology to Pakistan is the core of the film.
The first half is more about Nambi's stellar achievements at ISRO and how he worked hard to pull off ISRO's cryogenic rocket engine project. The second half is about how his and his family members' life turned upside down when he was charged with violating India's official secrets law.
Madhavan's performance is effective and moving. He effortlessly manages to make us feel sympathetic towards Nambi's travails when he had to fight a fabricated case hoisted on him by the system. The scenes where he undergoes torture and trauma couldn't have come out so well but for Madhavan's superb acting.
Suriya deserves a pat on the back for supporting a movie of this sort. The Hindi version has Shah Rukh Khan as the interviewer. Simran, seen as Nambi's wife Meena Narayanan, delivers a touching performance in the second half. Ravi Raghavendra as Vikram Sarabhai, Sam Mohan as Unni, Sriram Parthasarathy as Barry Amaldev, and Vincent Riotta as Crocco fit the bill.
Sam CS' background music is minimalistic. The second half has effective BGM but the first half has inadequate work. Sirsha Ray's cinematography is decent. Bijith Bala's editing is fine.
Writer-director Madhavan makes a gripping second half where the plotting is restrained and yet hits the right notes. It is devoid of technical jargon and all, something the first half couldn't have avoided. A film about a scientist had to borrow from scientific lingo to look authentic.
Nambi's tryst with Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan, and Abdul Kalam have been well-narrated without much drama. The film is essentially a no-frills drama that doesn't obsess itself about grandeur.
The mood changes in the second half once Nambi is arrested in a humiliating fashion. When the two Maldives nationals named Mariyam Rasheeda and Fousiya Hasan are brought into the picture, the audience is as clueless as Nambi. How the scientist came to be framed in an espionage case remains a mystery to this day. Recently, Nambi said that the US was involved in the deplorable attempt to end his career so that India's cryogenic mission doesn't take off.
The second hour holds the audience's attention with its sincere story-telling and A-class performances. The scene where Nambi tells his wife about the Supreme Court acquitting him is stunningly good.
At about 150 minutes, 'Rocketry' is not over-indulgent. Its focused narration gives way to a dramatic climax where Nambi makes an unexpected appearance.
'Rocketry' makes for an emotional watch. The biographical drama deserves a pat on the back!