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Does R Madhavan’s ‘Rocketry’ Do Justice To Nambi Narayanan’s Story?

By Manasi Rawalgaonkar 01 July, 2022 2 min read
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Does R Madhavan’s ‘Rocketry’ Do Justice To Nambi Narayanan’s Story?

R. Madhavan makes his directorial debut with the biographical film ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect’. The movie is based on the life of Nambi Narayanan, a scientist and aerospace engineer who worked with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and was falsely accused of espionage. Madhavan essays the titular role in the film, which hits cinemas today.

It’s a sincere biopic

Madhavan, who also wrote the film, took over two years to complete the script – and it shows. The end result is a well-researched, smartly crafted and engaging window into Narayanan’s life, which, as Shah Rukh Khan (playing himself), points out, is more than just the espionage scandal. The film starts with Narayanan sitting down for an interview with Shah Rukh to celebrate a successful satellite launch by ISRO in 2018. The host sets the ball rolling with mention of Vikram Sarabhai (Rajit Kapur), who served as a mentor and father figure to the scientist.

The film takes us back, all the way to 1969, when we’re introduced to a young Narayanan, who ardently advocates for liquid propulsion in Indian rocketry to Sarabhai. Armed with an admission to Princeton University and a determination to gain expertise in liquid propellant rockets, Narayanan disarms the prickly Professor Luigi Crocco (Vincent Riotta) into accepting him as a student. He completes his masters in a record 10 months. After turning down a lucrative job offer at NASA, he returns to ISRO.

In a brilliantly portrayed series of events, Narayanan and his fellow scientists travel to France to learn how to build large thrust engines using liquid propellant motors. However, the Indian scientists spot a vital flaw in French design and end up schooling the French. Narayanan uses his intelligence, wit and charm to rise higher up the professional ladder. But his career comes crashing down on November 30, 1994, when he is arrested for selling confidential information to two Maldivian women. The film agonisingly showcases the physical and mental torture Narayanan and his family undergo, and continue to endure for the years the case is in court. He’s finally fully exonerated by the Supreme Court in 2018. Towards the end of the film, Narayanan exits the studio, leaving a visibly moved Khan and film crew behind. He drives back home, perched on an old, rickety scooter. Back in America, Barry Amaldev (Sriram Parthasarathy), an Indian-American scientist Narayanan had known in the US, watches the interview. Barry had chided Narayanan for not joining NASA in the ‘70s. In contrast to Narayanan, Barry is sharply dressed. He walks out of his posh apartment and gets into a chauffeur-driven SUV. You’re left wondering if Narayanan’s love for his country was worth it.

R Madhavan is a triple treat

This is Madhavan’s directorial debut – and he’s hit it out of the park. The story never falters or gets melodramatic. The scientific jargon is kept simple for a lay person to understand so even though it is technically rocket science, you get it. The film is a tad lengthy in the second half, but at no point does it bore you. Watching SRK reminds you what a presence he is on screen. However, this is a Madhavan show all the way.

WATCH OR NOT
Nambi Narayanan’s story is one that needs to be seen by all.

Director: R Madhavan
Cast: R Madhavan, Shah Rukh Khan, Simran, Rajit Kapur, Rajeev Ravindranath, Sam Mohan
Language: Tamil, Hindi

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Tags: #R. Madhavan#Rocketry#Rocketry: The Nambi Effect
Written by
Manasi Rawalgaonkar
I work hard to give my cat a better life.

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