Rocketry Movie Review: R Madhavan’s National Award-Worthy Performance in an Inspiring Story For The Ages

Rocketry Movie Review: What does a biopic do to you? It tells you a story as deeply as you might not have known before, it transports you to the world seen and lived by someone else, and it shows the endearing, sometimes an almost unbelievable struggle that reinstates your belief in humanity. Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, a biopic on Indian scientist Nambi Narayanan does exactly that, and more. Starring R Madhavan in the lead role, the film takes you through the incredible journey of a man who gave it all to the nation but became a victim of politics, plotting, and schematic accusation of espionage at the peak of his career. Dr Nambi’s quest and his detrimental faith in the truth make for a brilliantly awe-inspiring story and Madhavan’s sincere portrayal makes it a story for the ages.

His co-star, Simran in the role of Meena, totally takes away the limelight from Madhavan in many scenes. She brings a certain simplicity even into the scenes where she is expected to be loud and daunting – a testimony to her efficiency as an actor.

Rocketry is not your usual drama. It checks all the boxes of being a true-blue biopic. The film also doesn’t show Madhavan as a rookie director. He makes the story emotionally rich. The best part about Rocketry is that it doesn’t underestimate the viewer. As the story of rocket scientist Nambi unfolds on-screen, the audience gets to know more about the struggles of ISRO and the emotions that push a man to do the best in the absence of resources and basic funding. In a scene when Nambi tests the first-ever liquid engine in France after failing to garner the required resources back home, one can see how it’s really not about the test of the engine for him, but of his own capabilities. Madhavan doesn’t let you budge even when Nambi’s entire team is celebrating in the background. You look at him and see his eyes stuck on the engine that he has created. His celebration only begins when he has crossed the bar that he has set for himself. The engine that was meant to work for 135 seconds goes on to work for 180 seconds. He names the engine ‘VIKAS’ and that’s when the real celebration begins.

The story of victory against all odds is told well by Dr Nambi himself but only when he is asked the right questions and there enters Shah Rukh Khan, playing his own starry self in the film. The actor lights up the screen every time he weaves Nambi’s story for the audience. With each scene, he helps the audience to be more invested. SRK is the best fit for the character – a man extracting the story from another man about how he got wronged by the system – something that SRK has himself recently experienced with his son being dragged into a legal case sans evidence.

Nambi’s story is a testimony to the fact that even when you do everything right, as per the plan, things turn awry. The scenes after Nambi’s arrest are especially harrowing. You can separate the director Madhavan from the actor Madhavan in those scenes. How a respected scientist who has represented the country on various world platforms and has made marvellous achievements in the space of science is beaten, harassed and shamed at various levels. What his family goes through is even worst – a trauma of a lifetime after being shunned from society, facing violence and experiencing never-ending nightmares. There’s an attempt to make the story suit the political agenda by establishing how Nambi got his lost reputation back only when the Modi-led government came into power. There’s no mention of the popular leaders from the 70s to the 90s when he had been making big jumps and travelling all around to put Indian on a world map. But, when you see the actual footage of Nambi Narayanan being felicitated with India’s third-highest civilian award – Padma Bhushan in 2014 – your heart swells with pride. You take it as a sense of compensation for the tormented two decades he and his family went through.

This story didn’t need to be made in a heroic manner. This was a heroic story that just needed a subtle treatment and Madhavan did justice to it. His confidence in his storytelling shows, and his acting capabilities just soar high. This is Maddy 2.0, at 52, making decisions with confidence and telling stories that need to be told to generations.

Stars: 4