Experience has taught me to not expect too much of anything. That’s exactly what I did with Rocketry: The Nambi Effect as well. I walked into the movie hall with minimal expectations, despite knowing that with R Madhavan at the helm, the movie has to be at least decent. In a way, I am glad to have entered the hall with no presumptions, because Rocketry: The Nambi Effect just blew my mind to smithereens. Read on to know more about the movie.
A biopic in the true sense
Bollywood has a history of taking true stories, adding the typical Bollywood masala, placing a skimpily clad woman to do an item number, and calling it a biopic. Thankfully, Rocketry: The Nambi Effect stays away from the stereotype. Sure, there are occasional jokes thrown around, some of them misogynistic, to give it a more commercial angle. But overall, the movie serves its purpose, which is to tell the story of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan.
The movie starts on a set of a TV interview, where an aged Nambi Narayanan is waiting to be interviewed by Shah Rukh Khan, who made an extended cameo as himself. The team behind the scenes is quite verbally upset about having to come in on a Friday night to hear an old man’s story. They never fail to address Nambi as the “buddha” who has wrecked their Friday night plans. The very first scenes show, quite clearly, that Nambi Narayanan is a man who is no longer respected nor revered. As Nambi starts telling his story, we see a man who commanded respect from everywhere, be it his family, colleagues, or international counterparts. This is a stark contrast to the initial few scenes where he is portrayed as a nobody and a nuisance.
Madhavan steals the show
Madhavan doesn’t just play the lead, but he is also the writer, producer, and director of this biographical drama. And I must say, he has aced it in all of his roles. The script only aims to tell Nambi Narayanan’s story and not sensationalise it. From the time before Nambi went to Princeton University till the time he is accused and later exonerated of espionage, the movie tells the story in a factual yet evocative manner.
Nambi is an Indian aerospace engineer who happens to travel to the USA. Now, this doesn’t bring with it some put-upon accent just because he has spent some time in the US. In fact, throughout the movie, no character speaks with a forced accent. Set in Trivandrum, the locals do speak Malayalam, and some of the characters, like Nambi’s nephew Arunan or his colleague Unni, do have the Malayalam accent in their Hindi and English. This, along with the fact that the movie starts with “Suprabhatam” and Nambi doing pooja at home, adds a sense of authenticity to the film. The fact that they cast South Indian actors to play South Indian roles in itself is commendable. This might be the effect of having a known South Indian actor like Madhavan leading the project.
An evocative story
One of the most interesting parts of the movie is that the man whom they choose to interview Nambi Narayanan is Shah Rukh Khan. The juxtaposition of the man who is known as the King of Bollywood, a known superstar and a man who is an unspoken hero fallen from grace, is a brilliant masterstroke. As Nambi’s story proceeds, the stardom of SRK quite visibly diminishes and the bravery and brilliance of Nambi shine through. And therein lies the true victory of the film. Because Nambi is the hero of the story and no one can take this stardom away from him.
While the first half of the movie was filled with a lot of scientific jargon that does disrupt the movie-watching experience, the second half of the movie is equally evocative and forces you to immerse yourself in the story. It’s been quite a few years since I cried watching a movie. And Rocketry: The Nambi Effect moved me to tears. It’s a surprise I didn’t walk out of the hall wailing. The emotions were heightened when we saw the role shifting from Madhavan to the real Nambi Narayanan. Madhavan knew what he was doing, having the man himself come in front of the screen and sharing at least a part of his story. When SRK goes down on his knees and begs Nambi Narayan for forgiveness on behalf of the entire country, he says that he cannot forgive because that would mean everything is okay and it really is not. The impact of this statement couldn’t be delivered by anyone other than the real Nambi Narayanan. In a similar tone, Madhavan talks about the greatness of the nation and its people and he says, “Koi bhi desh mahaan nahi reh sakta jab tak uss desh ko mahaan banaane waalo ki kadar nahi ki jaati”. And this dialogue speaks volumes of the struggles and injustices Nambi Narayanan has faced.
Madhavan shines as Nambi Narayanan and that was expected. But the supporting cast also did a fabulous job. Simran, as Nambi’s wife Meena, is brilliant, especially towards the end when she becomes a victim of shock due to everything that happens to their family. Sam Mohan, as Nambi’s colleague Unni, delivers another brilliant performance in his short role. On finding out Nambi kept the news of Unni’s son’s death from him for 15 days, the pain, anger, and disgust that he feels for Nambi are quite evident. Rajit Kapur as Vikram Sarabhai, Muralidaran as Arunan, and Shah Rukh Khan in his cameo delivered quite brilliantly.
Rocketry: The Nambi Effect is not a perfect movie, but guess what, that’s completely fine. The movie manages to tell a story in the most authentic way possible while moving you to tears. That’s enough for me. Who needs perfection when you can feel what the actors, the man himself, and the director wanted you to feel? Rocketry: The Nambi Effect is a movie that you should watch at least once. If nothing else, watch it because Nambi Narayanan’s story deserves to be told and known to everyone.
Rocketry: The Nambi Effect is now showing in theatres.
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