Truth served Bollywood style

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 26 May 2018 13:50:30



By Farina Salim Quraishi

FOR some and most of Gen X, the historical significance of the summer of 1998 has little importance and not much recall value. In that sense Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran acts as an entertaining crash course into nuclear history of India, albeit sketchy one. With a scant few details about the nuclear programme itself, its conceptualisation and execution; the story of how India become a Nuclear State instead plays out like a thriller, complete with a few nail-biting moments. Facts and fiction are blended at will more for impact than authenticity in the film ‘based on a true story’.

Parmanu starts off with bureaucratic high tea in the PMO, where ministers and babus are discussing China’s 43th nuclear blast jovially. A fired up a junior bureaucrat, Ashwat Rana (John Abraham) presents a plan ‘nuclear peace’ to thwart the domination of India by United States, China and Pakistan, only to be scoffed at. A disgusted Ashwat walks out, but not before he is pacified by the Secretary who asks him to make brief report and plan for the Prime Minister.

The flawless plan is, however, poorly implemented without Ashwat and blows in India’s face, leaving it red-faced internationally. As part of damage control, Ashwat is made the scapegoat and shown the door. Ashwat moves to Mussoorie but refuses to move on in life. It takes three years and a dynamic Principal Secretary (Boman Irani)to getthe nuclear ballfinally rolling again and Ashwat is summoned from his self-imposed exile. Ashwat then heads a five-member team to carry out the test in the Pokhran dessert under the watchful eyes of

the American spiesandit satellite .The Lacrosse Satellite, capable of even telling the time on one’s wristwatch, has been continuously monitoring India’s movements closely after the failed nuclear test of 1995 and hoodwinking it is next to impossible! Making good use of cinematic freedom, creative liberties keep peaking in the two hour drama as Ashwat Rana plays the ‘Krishna’ of the nuclear programme, inspired by Lord Krishna of Mahabharata, literally here. So we have Rana doing it all, conceptualising the idea, creating the team, maintaining secrecy, finalising the programme, plugging loopholes, navigating red tape and American secret service all at once.

Uff...! A bit too much really for a humble research analyst, even with ultra patriotism powering him on. Director Abhishek Sharma, with a very brilliant Tere Bin Laden and entirely questionable The Shaukeens behind him, is on new territory and it shows. Right from not being too sharp with scissors, to letting in stray sequences, to even the film losing steam in some places; Sharma doesn’t exactly keep it all under control. However, much like the nuclear experiment in the film, Parmanu too succeeds by trial and error to reach a satisfactory end. If one is willing to suspend belief and historical accuracies, Parmanu is an engaging watch.

The first half moves a little slowly due to long-drawn speeches and sustained focus on John’s troubled personal life. Proceedings get spark after the nuclear programme is renewed and the cat-and mouse game with American security agencies gains momentum. The neatly laid out thriller plays by the book and keeps the thrills coming with numerous twists and turns. The hoodwinking of satellites is exciting and sequences of satellites’ ‘blind spot’ have been executed brilliantly.

Old video footages of Bill Clinton, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee are a joy and provide a touch of realism to the film, which otherwise feels very superficial despite the enormity of the event. Also adding to welcome trend of neighbour neutrality, Pakistan is not the villain in Parmanu, but rather politics – national and international – and US are named and shamed in the film.

Right from taking a dig at whimsical coalition partners to exposing international collusion against India, Parmanu basks in nationalistic pride and yet keeps its jingoistic fervour in check. Sure there are rousing speeches and dramatic dialogues and yes, even a ‘Bharat Maat Ki Jai’; but it comes in at such a time that one is proud to echo it! Among the cast, John Abraham is the captain of the movie and is present in almost every frame. While the canvas sure looks dapper, the scenario is exactly shinny.

John’s deadpan facial expressions do little to convey his emotions and clenched jaw can only say so much! Cliched lines like, ‘Hum teen raatein nahi soyeinge, taki hum dushman ki neend uda sake...’ also don’t help much. Failing to bring the emotive arch to his role, John just goes through the motions without leaving an impact. Diana Penty too is woefully miscast. Though easy on the eyes, she is not in the least convincing as the rough and tough security head. With her perfectly done hair, immaculate make-up and pristine clothes, she looks out of place in the dusty desert.

The supporting cast of Vikas Kumar, Yogendra Tiku, Abhiroy Singh, Ajay Shanker and Anuja Sathe have little to do in forgettable roles. However, Boman Irani manages to shine even in a poorly written role. With precious little truth and large doses of fiction, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, is a true story told Bollywood style. Entertaining but hardly enlightening, this one is strictly for the masses.  


The Hitavada Rating : ✯ ✯