Madhavan’s directorial debut soars high slowly but surely


Story: Based on the life of one of India’s pioneering rocket scientists Nambi Narayanan, this biography chronicles his achievements, mad passion for the country’s space mission, his unmatched dedication and the accusation that eventually became the biggest personal and professional setback of his life.

Review: The eventful life of Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) leading scientist and Padma Bhushan awardee Nambi Narayanan is so full of ups and downs that one wonders why it took so long for someone to come up with a full-fledged feature film on him. While it was attempted by a few, R Madhavan’s directorial debut that he also wrote and co-produced, finally saw the light of day. The film plays out in flashback as Nambi Narayanan (R Madhavan) narrates his life story to superstar Shah Rukh Khan in 2014. The crew filming this mammoth interview is cursing their luck for being stuck in the studio late at night for a ‘long and boring’ story of an old scientist. However, as Nambi begins talking, everyone including the host are riveted to his story.

Madhavan dutifully covers every aspect of Nambi’s journey, especially his professional feats and challenges. Nambi’s mentor is none other than the prolific Vikram Sarabhai (Rajit Kapoor), who knows his prodigy only too well. When Nambi gets a full scholarship from Princeton University, he takes it up despite the obvious mismatch in what he is offered and what he wants to study. But not the one to toe the line, Nambi finds a way to not only learn what he wants but also be the best at it. So much so that he is offered a job by NASA but he chooses to work for ISRO instead and do whatever it takes to propel India’s space mission.

While Nambi’s work life is exciting and fraught with challenges, it is also way too technical and Madhavan doesn’t shy away from throwing complex astronomy terms and jargons at the audience. The entire first half is spent in showing various facets of Nambi’s slightly eccentric personality and astral experiments where the very animated background score acts as a pointer for us to root for our protagonist. At times, the context is lost in technicalities and we’re forced to focus on the big picture. The non-linear execution is exciting and generates anticipation but also adds to the confusion.

R Madhavan relives Nambi Narayanan’s real life in reel with full conviction. From his make-up to dialogue delivery and expression, Madhavan becomes the man whose story he tells. Shah Rukh Khan looks dapper as ever and uses his trademark charm to play the role of an interviewer with a heart. He mirrors the conscience of a nation for a man, who dedicated his life to a cause against all odds. Simran is a surprise package as the sensitive and dignified Meena Narayanan. Simran’s portrayal goes a long way in humanising Nambi’s passion for his work and the hardships he endures. Among the supporting actors, Sam Mohan stands out as Unni, whose character is a lot more fleshed out than others.

The second half is much stronger and emotionally draining but the film’s pace remains slow. It’s no rocket science that this one’s a niche film. It has an interesting subject and an untold story of a man, who was wronged for always being right for his nation. ‘Rocketry’ takes off well, hits some turbulence on the way, but eventually soars high with real characters and moving moments that make it worth your while.



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