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Rocketry The Nambi Effect review: R Madhavan film is a patchy effort; equal parts effective and over-the-top amateurish

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Rocketry The Nambi Effect movie review: R Madhavan makes you believe in the character, but the writing is stodgy, and the direction doesn’t quite make up for it.

rocketry movie reviewRocketry The Nambi Effect movie review: Madhavan makes you believe in the character, even if there are times in the beginning when Nambi looks older than he should.

It’s surprising that the story of Nambi Narayanan, an ISRO scientist who was falsely accused of espionage, took so long to be filmed. It has everything: a man who dedicated his life to the advancement of science, a patriot who refused a coveted NASA job to come back to serve his country, a man devoted to his wife and three children, and who fought a long, bitter battle to clear his name.

R Madhavan who has written and directed the film, as well as acted in the titular role, teeters between the two aspects of Nambi’s life: the bright, cocky student of science who knows much more than his professor at Princeton and who tirelessly pushes for what he wants, and the responsible family man pushing back at the calumny heaped upon him. This makes ‘Rocketry, The Nambi Effect’ a somewhat patchy effort — effective in some parts, and over-the-top amateurish in others.

The challenge to keep a regular, non-scientific audience with it while exploring ‘solid and liquid states’, the correct pressure that is required to be the right propellant, the details of the space programmes in Russia and France, is evident in the way things are incorporated in the script, with an emphasis on keeping everything light and understandable.

Nambi and his team keep arraying themselves in interesting locations, not just around a dull office table — on a street, a yacht, a cobweb-laden lab — even as they discuss arcane scientific stuff, and the effort shows. The characters who play Nambi’s collaborators in foreign lands are actors trying very hard to act — one particularly hilarious scene plays out somewhere in the USSR where Nambi and co. race across an airfield on snow sleds laden with essential parts for a rocket, with the Americans in hot pursuit.

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Scenes like these impel the ultra-respectful anchor of a TV programme, played by Shah Rukh Khan, to comment that this felt like a James Bond movie. My grouse with this device, which is used to frame the back-and-forth dialogue right through the film, essentially a long flashback, is how bland it is. Madhavan, playing an elderly Nambi, snowy white beard and all, looking like a dead ringer for the real Nambi, in animated conversation with SRK should have been the beating heart of the film.

And even though an attempt has been made to prevent the film from turning into a hagiography — in a tragic incident involving one of Nambi’s colleagues (Mohan), the former comes off as a hard-hearted pragmatist solely invested in getting the job done — the film keeps patting Nambi on the back. Admiring colleagues Param (Ravindranathan), and Sartaj (Sahni) keep saying, ‘you’re the man!’ There’s no doubt in the movie’s mind, or in the way Madhavan plays him, that Nambi is a hero, even when he is being cruelly beaten in prison, or when he is trying to get his shattered wife (Simran) out of the fugue she has sunk into.

Madhavan makes you believe in the character, even if there are times in the beginning when Nambi looks older than he should, even as a ‘senior’ Ivy League student, or when he is exchanging notes with his dear mentor Vikram Sarabhai (Kapur) and supportive ISRO boss, shoving aside all obstacles airily, and marching to his own tune. But the writing is stodgy, and the direction doesn’t quite make up for it. And why not even a mention of the crucial political champions of India’s space programme, without whose unstinting support it would have turned into a non-starter?

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Rocketry The Nambi Effect movie cast: R Madhavan, Simran, Rajit Kapoor, Gulshan Grover, Sam Mohan, Rajeev Ravindranathan, Bhawsheel Sahni
Rocketry The Nambi Effect movie director: R Madhavan
Rocketry The Nambi Effect movie rating: 2.5 stars

First published on: 01-07-2022 at 01:35:45 pm
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