John Abraham's 'Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran' has been a talking point ever since its inception. For those who ain't aware, the film is a reconstruction of one of the most pivotal events in the history of modern India. It documents the 1998 Pokhran II tests in which India sneakily conducted a series of three nuclear bomb test explosions under utmost secrecy right under the nose of the CIA spy satellites. While the film is based on true events, director Abhishek Sharma adds a generous dose of fiction to make it commercially palatable.
Parmanu begins with Ashwat Raina (John Abraham), an upright civil servant from the Research & Analysis department trying to convince the Prime Minister's Office to let India conduct its own set of nuclear tests and declare its arms might to the world.
Unfortunately, he is mocked by the officials and his idea is 'plagiarized'. However, the operation fails to escape from the prying eyes of CIA and eventually Ashwat is made the 'scapegoat' leading to his suspension. Betrayed by the system, he moves to Mussoorie to begin his life afresh with his family.
Three years later, with the change in regime, Ashwat is brought back on board by Himanshu Shukla (Boman Irani), who is the Principal Secretary to the new Prime Minister, to spearhead the second set of nuclear tests in the desert of Pokhran in Rajasthan. With a motley crew of scientists and army personnel, Ashwat sets out to make the nation proud and tackle the odds against this mission which includes nosy CIA satellites, a Pakistani spy and a seed of doubt.
To begin with, John Abraham & team needs to be applauded for picking up a story that would make every Indian proud. Parmanu is a blend of facts and fiction packed in a runtime of roughly 129 minutes. Having said that, a subject like this needs taut direction and that's where Parmanu wobbles. Abhishek Sharma tries to pack in too many ingredients only to succeed to some extend. The mixing of genres doesn't work in his favour.
A little insight about Pokhran-I codenamed Smiling Buddha which was India's first nuclear test in 1974 could have made the narrative more intriguing. Further this film loses its fizz at several places due to its chest-thumping patriotism and jingoistic lines which spells it out loud.
John Abraham with his limited acting chops plays it fair. But, the actor seems a tad uneasy when it comes to mouthing heavy-weight dialogues in the film and his face at these moments gives it away all. However, he gets his little moment of 'triumph' towards the end where his character breaks down. Also he scores some brownie points from us for backing this story which needed to be told.
Diana Penty as security expert Ambalika begins on a promising note only to trail away later; blame it on her poorly-sketched character. Even in the midst of a sandstorm and a nuclear testing explosion, our lady manages to look as if she's just stepped out of the salon, all prime and proper! Oh dear, I am dying to know how her character escaped from getting tanned in the scorching heat of Rajasthan summer when I barely manage a ten-minute walk in the sun without breaking into sweat and all dusty.
Boman Irani lends a good support. The rest of the cast- Anuja Sathe, Yogendra Tiku, Aditya Hitkari and others play their parts well.
The film's music doesn't add any layers to the narrative and looks misplaced instead. You have real footage of Indian political leaders making statements to the media and US' condemnation after the nuclear testing and CIA intelligence failure juxtaposed with the reel which blends quite seamlessly and goes with the flow. The editing works fine.
Parmanu has an intriguing premise with its fair share of 'thrills', but the film doesn't blow your mind because of its weak execution. While this John Abraham- Diana Penty starrer has noble intentions, it does not skyrocket your excitement levels leaving you a little underwhelmed. I am going with 2.5 stars here.