“Sare Jahan se Accha Hindustan Hamara” my heart sang as I left the theater after seeing Parmanu: the Story of Pokhran.
It is a very feel good movie which manages to engage and enthrall you. 2 hours 9 minutes: a story which has NO suspense: since the denouement is well known: the bomb blast did take place at 1545 on 11th May 1998 in Pokhran. No new news , something which happened so long ago and was well documented and read about in the whole world. Despite these obvious challenges the director Abhishek Sharma and the scriptwriter duo of Saiwyn Quadras and Sanyukta Chawla Shaikh manage to keep you guessing and on your seat. The same script writers gave us Neerja and again they come up again with a balanced and sound script.
John Abraham obviously carries the whole film on his own shoulders. Though there is a motley team of 5 people ( from DRDO; ISA; Army; etc) who support the story and the principal character of Ashwath Raina, it is John Abraham who pervades nearly every shot in the movie. Boman Irani as the Chief Secretary in PM’s Office has a significant role; all other characters play a second fiddle and execute their supportive roles well: letting John carry the main narrative and drama fully on his own steam. Diana Pretty, oops!! sorry, Diana Penty playing the role of the person in charge of Security Ops does precious little besides looking cute. Anuja Sathe playing John’s wife shows great promise; but her role finally starts interfering with the flow of the story and so you want her to move on and disappear from the screen so that you can watch the story of India’s entry into the Nuclear Club unfold in all its glory.
Very smartly, live-stock TV footage of leaders of that bygone era viz. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif; a visibly angry US President and our own rhetorical Atal Behari are blended in the movie, to embellish the narrative and give it a semi formal, slightly more authentic feel. But that does not draw away from a very tenuous argument the Director puts forward: 6 people battling all odds: a failed nuclear test 3 years ago; an irritated neighbouring state; pressure from USA; PM’s tottering political fortunes; lack of time; US satellite surveillance; coordination required with multiple governmental agencies in India manage to pull off successful nuclear test blasts of 3 fusion and fission type of nuclear devices. Our superhero Aswath singlehandedly completes the tasks which in reality were a masterful working together of many governmental agencies in complete secrecy. Similarly the glossing over of contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru, Homi Bhabha, Indira Gandhi, Vikram Sarabhai, Raja Ramanna and others from the roll of honour for India’s nuclear success looks churlish: we love Atal Behari; but we love others too, right?
The movie has some other gaps: The stupid inappropriate songs which slow down the pace. Or the first half of the movie which becomes maha relaxed after the initial PMO meeting where Ashwath Raina is introduced. The time taken to show Ashwath’s relationship with his wife after he is suspended. The over mature young son playing the balancing act. The ISI agent who is caricaturistic; as is the CIA counter intelligence operative.
But despite all this the movie works. The story keeps you guessing on the next events. Challenges and solutions flow seemlessly. Protagonists get the audiences’ love and sympathy all thru their difficulties; and you want them to succeed. Though we all know the conclusion (the successful nuclear test) already, the movie does pick up pace as it approaches the climax, and that whole sequencing is handled well whereby you actually move to the edge of your seat and feel your heart swell with pride when you see the smart computer graphics of the bomb blast and its effects.
As the koimoi.com review sums it up : Don’t watch the movie for anyone else; watch it for your country. America haters can see the movie to see the abject failure of the CIA intelligence gathering machine and the resultant angst. Whatever the reason: do watch the movie and feel good to be an Indian!!
Jai Shakti! Jai Pokhran II !! Jai Hind!!! Proud to be an Indian: vikas