Rocketry: The Nambi Effect review | R Madhavan wins with the story of an underdog, Shah Rukh Khan's cameo is endearing

ByMonika Rawal Kukreja
Jul 01, 2022 12:18 PM IST

Rocketry The Nambi Effect review: R Madhavan is a one man army who puts up a spectacular, inspiring show.

Pick the life story of a popular, celebrated personality, make a biopic on them and you know audiences would get drawn to the theatres. But when you choose to tell a tale of an underdog and yet manage to hold everyone's attention with your compelling storytelling and execution, that's the actual win. R Madhavan's Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, based on the life of space scientist Nambi Narayanan, is that story which surprisingly nobody thought of narrating on the big screen until now, but it has so much to say. Written and directed by Madhavan, the film stars him as Nambi Narayanan and this is one onscreen portrayal, after a long time, that makes you notice the heart, soul and sweat that has gone into making it as real as possible. Read more: Rocketry The Nambi Effect's trailer screened at Times Square

Rocketry The Nambi Effect review: R Madhavan plays Nambi Narayanan in the biopic.
Rocketry The Nambi Effect review: R Madhavan plays Nambi Narayanan in the biopic.

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect begins with a wide shot of the outer space and landing into Nambi Narayanan's house in Trivandrum where we are introduced to his family. While everyone is having a good laugh over lunch, their world comes crumbling down after Nambi gets arrested on espionage charges. A few scenes where Nambi's wife gets humiliated at a wedding she was attending, his daughter sits helpless in the middle of the road as someone throws dung in her face, his son gets beaten up and his son-in-law is attacked— are painful visuals to sit through. That's when you know it's not a man who was wronged, but an entire family that took the brunt. Cut to 19 years later, we are shown an elderly Nambi in conversation with actor Shah Rukh Khan (playing himself) taking us through his hardships through a series of flashback sequences.

Rocketry chronicles the journey of one of the most brilliant and skilled ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) scientist, who puts his nation and science before anything else, but is made to suffer on personal and professional level due some corrupt officials. As a young scientist, Nambi effortlessly manages to crack profitable deals outside his country that would help their department back home and India's Mars Mission. Be it earning a scholarship at Princeton, making a ridiculous demand from the CEO of Rolls Royce, leading a teaming of 52 scientists to learn technical know-how from the French and accomplishing some impossible tasks, and lastly convincing Russians to sell their technology to India at an affordable price, Madhavan does all this and more with so much charm and conviction.

Rocketry The Nambi Effect stars R Madhavan, Simran, Misha Ghosal.
Rocketry The Nambi Effect stars R Madhavan, Simran, Misha Ghosal.

The first half of the film throws way too many technical and scientific jargons at you which are difficult to understand and that makes the film a tad too heavy. But Madhavan holds no qualms about the same as he clearly doesn't compromise on the authenticity of his story. There are quite a few dialogues in English, French and even Russian, and many might find that a hinderance in the narrative, but they bring a lot of authenticity to the plot. There are some lighter moments, too, by means of Indian scientists having fun at the expense of people in different countries they visit. It's the second half of the film that's far more intense, gripping and intriguing. It shows how Nambi was tortured in the jail for a false confession that he sold secrets of rocket science to Pakistan. Here, I wish, the focus was a little more on telling us who wronged him and what was the agenda behind it, but somewhere that question remains unanswered till the very end.

That being said, throughout the film, you connect with Nambi's story on a personal level — celebrate his highs, feel the pain of his lows and cheer loud each time you sense the patriotic flavour in his actions and words. It won't be an exaggeration to call Madhavan a one-man army who puts together a spectacular show both in front of the camera and behind it, too. The research and homework that he has done behind putting together this biopic deserves an applause. He handles the subject with extreme honesty and deep understanding as a director, and portrays it with full dedication and earnestness as an actor. He has picked up nuances of Nambi to the T. His physical appearance adds to making it a believable character. Here, I'd like to mention the climax scene where Madhavan is talking to Khan and a close-up shot of his face transitions to real Nambi Narayanan. Not even for a split second you feel that's a different person. That's how real Madhavan looked on the screen.

In supporting cast, actor Simran as Nambi's wife Meena makes an impact with whatever few scenes we see her in. Then Karthik Kumar as the CBI investigating officer PM Nayar, Sam Mohan as Unni, Rajeev Ravindranathan as Param, Bhawsheel as Sartaj among others add depth to the storyline.

And having Shah Rukh Khan as the interviewer unfolding chapters from Nambi's life remains the highlight of the film. The way he emotes and gets totally involved in Nambi's story during the interview doesn't look like a scene from a film. And full credit to Madhavan here for picking such an inspiring story and telling in an even moving way that it leaves even King Khan teary eyed towards the end.

At 157 minutes, the film definitely gets a bit lengthy and a sharper editing, especially in the first half, could have made it a tighter watch. Nevertheless, some stories need that time and depth to be told and with Rocketry, you really don't complain.

Audiences might not categorise Rocketry: The Nambi Effect as a mass commercial potboiler and only fit for festivals, but it's time you set yourself free from these expectations for this film is definitely worth all your time and money. It lets you know your country better and tells the untold story of people who gave up a lot in life only for their nation.

Film: Rocketry: The Nambi Effect

Director: R Madhavan

Cast: R Madhavan, Simran, Kartik Kumar

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