I finally decided to watch the movie this weekend after going through the rave reviews it received this week.
Some of the prominent names shared a strongly persuasive appeal to watch the movie to gain insights. Social media and the public imagination remained preoccupied with the strong visuals of the same, evoking strong emotions from people high and humble.
Equally emotional returns were reserved for the ‘critique’ community, the establishment left who didn’t approve of the film at the least, & people, in turn, disagreeing with them, at the least.
The film begins with a frame that is familiar to most of us yet not that frequent in Hindi cinema- of a working man beginning his day with prayers to the Goddess Bhagwati & wearing his identity up his sleeve without the intention to make a statement.
The film ‘Rocketry: The Nambi effect’ is making waves at the cinemas both in India & worldwide. A directorial debut of actor R Madhavan, the plot revolves around the life & times of Nambi Narayanan, an arrogant, gifted & ambitious rocket scientist who seeks to make India build a self-reliant space programme for itself.
The story takes an incriminating turn when the parties distraught from him deploy the corrupt deep state within India to insinuate him in botched-up cases of sexual misconduct & sedition, and the resultant crisis in the lives of himself & his loved ones.
There are a number of times where the protagonists- the scientists- take decisions that are very human in appeal. They are calculated, flawed, and dreamy but never over the top in terms of the drama which we Indians are well aware of. The conversations between Nambi, Kalam & Vikram Sarabhai remind us of the ones that we have between ourselves. The humanly incorrect & the shortened jargon of co-workers in an industry remind us of the jovial & tense times we had with our own brethren. It is then just a matter to follow up with their jargon with a little patience- the jargon of rocket science.
The film at certain times becomes a little too heavy and contextualized for normal and uninterested audiences, but the human voices beneath keep the momentum going. This is a great success on the part of the director, and sometimes wrongly understood as taking off on the high ground.
The pace of scientific research is matched with the non-academic hustling that one often goes through to get the work done. We travel with Nambi to different corners of the world. We become party to his adventures and feel sympathetic towards his sentiments.
The shots from the US, France & the then Soviet Union look genuine, which is also a takeaway from the film- the less dramatic depiction of different people in our pop culture.
It could be a breakthrough in Indian cinematic history where complex issues are being handled with nuance and are finally finding takers in India. When the cinematography of the foreign is being de-scaled to suit the film’s temperament rather than toning down for the masses, we can safely assume that a deeper conversation is being built.
Madhavan scores on that front with flying colors.
While the first half is relaxingly consistent, the second half takes a screeching halt & turns our attention to what has gone wrong with him in India. For much of the anguish at the behavior of the Indian State, the film also seeks to explore the larger fault lines in our society, even in our world tilted on the axis of the West.
Our embattled & now aged protagonist has to go through some terrible ordeals at the hands of State brutality employed by sinister self-interest. We watch with a fish’s eyes how the social fabric of a person- a successful one- comes crashing down in the face of hardships & ignominy. The ignominy pervades through all aspects of his life, but the film makes sure it is never over the top. Rather, it is a subtle manifestation of hapless trauma that comes out in little snippets here and there. The film reaches its intensity exactly when it is at its most intimate.
In the end, we come to a full circle when the same state is shown responding to its mistake and there are a couple of statements which are made.
Overall, the slow burn and the consistency of the plot & the harrowing realization of it is based on true events make it a tiring end.
The film may not take you on a ride of strong emotions and many things may seem a little too heavy for a weekend but it will push the viewer in contemplation of the journey that we have come together as a Nation, and the mistakes we made. The mistakes we did, and the mistakes we didn’t even realize were done.
Perhaps, that would be a succinct explanation of the impact it had upon me after the show, and maybe on others as well.
I have decided to call it a “Nambi effect’’, a humble ode from me.