"Mujhe tum logon se koi character certificate nahin chahiye naa hi main koi popularity contest jeetne aaya hoon. Ek mission ke liye aaye hain," Nambi Narayanan (R Madhavan) sternly tells his team members in the midst of a celebration gone awry.
Well, at the end of almost two and a half hours of Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, you realise that R Madhavan has succeeded in his mission, both as a director and an actor despite some bumps in his way.
What's Yay: R Madhavan, Shah Rukh Khan's cameo
What's Nay: Too much scientific jargon in the first half
A snow-bearded former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan (R Madhavan) awaits at a studio to get interviewed by superstar Shah Rukh Khan (King Khan himself). The crew at the venue ain't pleased to let their weekend go the science way while a few chat about clicking selfies with SRK. A few minutes later, the cameras roll and the Bollywood star begins conversing with Nambi Narayanan.
Before plunging into the painful chapter in Narayanan's life, SRK asks him about the influence of his guru Vikram Sarabhai in his life which leaves the former scientist a tad impressed. The film then hits the rewind button which begins with Nambi Narayanan and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in the midst of a scientific experiment. Dr Vikram Sarabhai (Rajit Kapur) makes an entry as an influential figure in Nambi Narayanan's life.
In 1969, the latter earns a fellowship at NASA to study solid propellants. However, the bright lad has his eyes on the subject of liquid propulsion and even succeeds in convincing the Princeton professor Luigi Crocco to take him under his wing. After completing his masters, Narayanan returns back to India.
Rocketry: The Nambi Effect takes us through the various achievements of this genius of a man before touching the controversial portion of his life where a fabricated case took a heavy toll both on his personal and professional life.
While biopics on cricketers and actors often make their way to the big screen, it's brave and laudable of R Madhavan to chose a story that needs to be told as well as heard! As a debutant director, he impresses on various scales. He pulls off a masterstroke by getting Shah Rukh Khan on board to break the third wall. Who better than the 'Badshah of Bollywood' to make you reach out for the tissues!
The first half of Rocketry: The Nambi Effect introduces us to Nambi Narayanan, the scientist and that's where the film has its share of flaws. The movie launches on a shaky note as Madhavan who is also the writer of the film, doesn't shy away from throwing heavy scientific jargon and terms, which might leave the audience perplexed. The pace is also a bit slow.
Madhavan tries to infuse humour in the narrative with jokes on 'Indian husbands' and 'rockets'. But at times, the context gets drowned in too many technicalities.
However, post interval, Rocketry: The Nambi Effect changes its tone and takes you on an emotionally-charged ride with a few moments that leave you numb.
Somewhere in the narrative, R Madhavan's character Nambi Narayanan says, "Kisi kutte ko marna ho toh afwah faila do ki woh paagal hain, theek ussi tarah kissi insaan ko barbaad karna ho toh yeh elaan kardo ki woh ek desh drohi hain." Nothing gets more real than this!
R Madhavan slips into the skin of former aerospace scientist Nambi Narayanan with ease. Right from his makeup to his body language, the actor ticks all the boxes and delivers a commendable performance.
Simran Bagga who essays the role of his wife Meena, shines in the second half with her finesse in handling emotions on screen. Rajit Kapur as Dr Vikram Sarabhai is effective in his role. Among the supporting actors, Sam Mohan's portrayal of fellow scientist Unni grabs your attention.
Last but not the least, your heart leaps with joy to see Shah Rukh Khan on the celluloid after a gap of four years. As a man who mirrors the conscience of the nation for the wronged man, the superstar evokes a sea of emotions.
Rocketry: The Nambi Effect which has been shot across eight countries, has engaging visuals and the credit for that goes to cinematographer Sirsha Ray. Bijith Bala handles the non-linear storytelling ably with his editing scissors.
'Sri Venkatesa Suprabatham' which plays in the opening scene of the film is soothing to the ears and transports you to a serene place. The rest of the songs 'Behne Do' and 'Aasmaan' seep beautifully in the narrative.
In one of the scenes in the film, on being asked why no one from ISRO stepped forward in his support when he was going through a tough time in the jail, Nambi Narayanan quips, "Scientist shayad aise hi hote hai, rocket fail ho jaaye toh react karna jaante hai, lekin insaan fail ho jaaye toh aise react karna hain, yeh nahin jaate."
Luckily, Rocketry: The Nambi Effect succeeds in evoking the desirable reaction due to its poignant second half with some touching performances.
We give 3 stars out of 5 to R Madhavan's Rocketry: The Nambi Effect.