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Rocketry: The Nambi Effect

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect Movie Review

by rameshe

Critic’s Rating : 3.5 / 5

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect Movie Review : Madhavan makes a solid debut as a filmmaker with Rocketry: The Nambi Effect

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect Movie Synopsis: A biopic of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan, Rocketry is a formally conventional narration of the contributions of one of India’s premier space scientists and the great personal cost that he is unfairly made to pay for the passion he had for his job and country.

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect Movie Review: Rocketry begins with an extended shot that suitably begins in space and travels down all the way to Earth, where we are introduced to Nambi’s family. With just a few lines of conversation, Madhavan, who is also making his debut as a filmmaker, gives us a peek into the joyful family of his protagonist. When we meet them first, the family is joking around, unaware of the peril that is on their doorstep. And boom, their world turns upside down as Nambi is arrested on charges of spying.

The action cuts to 19 years later, where we now meet an elderly Nambi all set to be interviewed by movie star Suriya (the real-life Suriya, who brings in earnestness to make us empathetic about his interview subject). Madhavan uses this interview as the framing device to narrate the accomplishments of Nambi. We see this somewhat haughty but talented protégé of Vikram Sarabhai using his ingenuity to learn the subject of his choice at Princeton, managing to get technology for a pittance from the CEO of Rolls Royce with his charm, succeeding in his mission of leading a team of 52 scientists to covertly learning technical know-how from the French and building the Vikas engine right under their noses and striking a deal with Russians to get their technology to India even as the Americans try to play dirty.

Madhavan films these portions in a fairly straightforward manner, taking us through the developments with some witty conversations (though the dialogues have a Brahminical flavour), a rousing moment that sets up the interval and less-than-impressive performances by the cast of foreign actors (a constant niggle in Indian films). The incongruence of the actors speaking their lines in a different language while we hear them being uttered in Tamil only gives these portions the feel of a dubbed film.

But the stronger second half gives us the episodes of Nambi being arrested on false charges of selling the nation’s secrets and being accused as a traitor, which leads to unfair imprisonment, third-degree treatments at the hands of cops and being shunned by the society. The film doesn’t go too deep into the scientist’s attempts to clear his name, and instead focuses more on the emotional fallout of the accusation on him and his family. This approach turns Rocketry into a sentimental drama, which feels like a rather safe choice, given that the story offers scope for it to be an edgier film – a cautionary thriller on how, in our country, even those with the best intentions can instantly be vilified due to abuse of power.

But even in its current form, the film offers moments that move us, like the scene when Nambi and his wife Meena find themselves stranded on the streets amidst a downpour with no one willing to help them or when they have to put up with accusing stares at a wedding and later, the satisfying payoff of the couple being looked upon with gratitude at the same event.

As a first-time filmmaker, Madhavan impresses with some of the filmmaking choices – like the single shot that begins the film or the decision to go with a different aspect ratio for the scenes showing Nambi in custody, which enhances the feeling of him being trapped. While the supporting cast is largely filled with lesser-known faces, he extracts good performances from them even though the secondary characters aren’t written with much depth. Seasoned performers like Simran, who is terrific in the few scenes she appears in, and Karthik Kumar, who is solid as an investigating officer who realises the innocence of Nambi, also help. Then, there is Madhavan the actor. From capturing the physicality of the character over the many years that the story unfolds to conveying the inner strength of the character, both during the highs (the Vikas success) and lows (the episodes post his release from prison), the actor puts up an impressive performance that is the Vikas engine of this film.

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