Director: Pria Somiah
India's Space Odyssey presented by discovery+ is touted to be a tribute to the glorious 60-year-old journey of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) where innumerable scientists gave in their hard work, sweat, blood and tears to catapult India to the main league in the world map when it came to its space and technological development. The documentary is characterized by snippets and interviews from experts ranging from former ISRO Chairmans G Madhavan Nair and Satish Dhawan to former ISRO head Anuradha TK and historians, editors and writers. Even though the docudrama is backed by solid research, its tribute fails to strike a chord at the personal level when it comes to immortalising the significant journey of scientists Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and Nambi Narayanan.
The documentary traces the establishment of The Indian Space Programme from a humble church in Thambi to it becoming a global milestone with the success of Mangalyaan and Chandrayaan-1. However, one finds the execution extremely schoolish and bland along with some animated fillers. It will almost remind one of the docudramas shown in schools when one instead expects to witness a deeper and more meaningful insight into the rollercoaster ride of a journey of ISRO.
There is a lack of archival facts on various important aspects in the defining moments of ISRO like the camaraderie between the pioneers of ISRO- Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai, the initial tumultuous relationship between the USA and India to the gravity of the espionage controversy that caused the arrest of Nambi Narayan. Instead of focusing on the intricate efforts and hard work of the determined men and women involved in the various ISRO missions over the years, footage of politicians is flashed occasionally. These elements falter from the documentary to strike a chord on the personal level and what is left behind is a hastily made product.
Even though there is no denying that the writing by Joshua Whitehead and the research by Nidhi Rai is strong, the execution lacks a serious depth altogether. With several hard-hitting documentaries and movies especially when it comes to the genre of space, sci-fi and sci-tech, India's Space Odyssey should have tried to aim a notch higher when tracing such an inspiring and eventful journey of ISRO and its scientists. One of the validating moments of the documentary forms the origin of the Indian Space Programme in Thambi and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam giving his endearing and honest speech on the failure of SLV-3.
Actor R Madhavan has narrated the Hindi version of the documentary and hopefully his upcoming film Rocketry: The Nambi Effect will give a close insight into the controversy and arrest of Nambi Narayanan following a police complaint by a Maldivian woman Rasheeda who alleged that the scientist was a spy. The conversation between former Indian Air Force pilot Rakesh Sharma who was the first citizen of India to go to space and former Prime Minister Of India, Indira Gandhi is inevitably heartwarming. The lines 'Saare Jaahan Se Acha' is something that will forever resonate in the mind of every Indian.
However, the documentary India's Space Odyssey could have attempted to strike a chord on a more personal level with a more human and sentimental touch instead of a bland factual commentary. The efforts of discovery+ in showcasing this tribute for ISRO is one that should be praised though. We give India's Space Odyssey 2.5 out of 5 stars.