Parmanu: the Story of Pokhran
Parmanu: the Story of Pokhran – an Overly Simplistic Approach to One of India’s Historic Events
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Directed by Abhishek Sharma, Parmanu is an action drama film centered on India’s super-secret mission to conduct nuclear bomb test explosions lead by the Indian army in Pokhran. In the era of political, religious and a multiple more such areas of intolerance, it is appreciable to note that Abhishek Sharma has decided to take up such a subject despite its strong political shades. Even though the film serves as passable entertainment, the safe and simplistic approach it takes to re-tell this real incident is disappointing. One would think that the director who chose such a bold subject would’ve chosen a much more daring approach in narrating it too.
Set in 1998, the film tells the story of India’s secret mission to conduct nuclear bomb test explosions in the city of Pokhran in Rajasthan. The story is told through the perspective of Capt. Ashwath Raina, who is presented a chance to redeem himself by leading this mission. Raina along with his A-Team head over to Rajasthan with hopes of establishing India as a nation-defining Nuclear power. Executing this mission without being detected by the CIA while also dodging heat from Pakistan under a tense political scenario forms the crux of this film.
The twists and turns in the suspenseful journey that India sets out on to achieve its nuclear goals are executed in quite a thrilling manner by director Abhishek Sharma. Even though the film’s run time is quite long, it’s pacing makes up for its length. One of the reasons why this team’s race against time keeps you interested is because of the manner in which it presents the hurdles these men are faced with. Given that we already know how this tale ends; the director has to step-up his game to make the narrative unpredictable. He does it by employing extensive detailing. As the Vajpayee government takes charge and these mean head out on this mission, everything that was a hindrance to them is explained to us. From the manner in which the Satellites track our activity to the US and Pakistani spies who reported India’s every movement, the film takes some time to explain its threat to us in a simple yet entertaining manner. So when this mission is threatened, we are left on the edge of our seats.
The climax of this film takes up a style that reminds one of Argo. Even though we are well-aware of the ending, we are left anxious to see their victory. Just for immersing the audience in his tale, Sharma deserves applause.
However the film isn’t without faults either. There is a lot of immaturity surrounding some characterizations and strategies used in the film. For instance, the undercover names of the officers are inspired from Mahabharata. This reference is most definitely laughable. The manner in which the film undermines the CIA officials just to show the might of the Indian army isn’t entirely convincing either.
Mostly, Parmanu fails to be an unforgettable film because it tries to play it safe. In its clinical approach, it presents the events as is, trying to incorporate suspense to make it entertaining. But it fails to raise questions in your mind. It barely even acknowledges the Megaton Killing machines. This shallow approach to simplify such an enormous event is the reason for its ineffectiveness. Sure, it delivers plenty of drama but it fails in establishing authenticity by confining itself to forced speeches on patriotism.
As Ashwath Raina, John Abraham delivers an average performance. The actor’s efforts to step down from his toned & bulky body to embrace a subdued yet strong physique for this role has to be appreciated. As far as physical appearance is concerned, he has gone to great lengths to ensure he looks the part. But emotionally, he remains stern and expressionless in most of the scenes. Abraham’s introduction scene itself appears to be too hero driven. He tries to convince his fellow bureaucrats on why India needs to step its game up in the nuclear weapons sector. This scene appears a tad too exhibitionistic. Nonetheless, Abraham has to be appreciated for his efforts to step out of his comfort zone to play a character whose vulnerabilities and failings are often thrust under the limelight. Even though his caliber as an actor desperately needs an upgradation, his portrayal is at least earnest.
There are two important female characters in the film, namely: Sushma Raina and Capt. Ambalika Bandopadhyay. Played by Anuja Sathe, Sushma Raina plays the wife of Captain Ashwath Raina. She is touted to be a strong and independent astrophysicist. While Sathe’s performance is convincing, it doesn’t leave a lasting impression on you. The same goes for Diana Penty as Capt. Ambalika Bandopadhyay. Her character’s potential is underexplored as is her unaffected portrayal. The writers and the director made a noble effort to include such strong female characters as a part of their narrative but they failed to make their presence much more notable. If they had come through in their ambitions, Parmanu would’ve been truly commendable.
Parmanu tries to forcefully display geographic authenticity through the film’s music. This does not work at all. While the music does try to capture the essence of Rajasthan, this is lost in a film that has a focus that appears far more important.
Cinematographers Aseem Mishra and Zubin Mistry enliven the film’s dry geographic by organically crafting frame suspense. The deserts of Rajasthan and the secret mission that lurked within are captured with enough visual drama for it to appeal to the average audience.
On the whole, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran is dramatic, patriotic and simplistic. But the problem with this film is its extremely simplistic approach to narrate such a historic event in our nation. While it may fare as an average entertainer, the film would have benefitted from a much more non-linear and complex approach. It instead feels like one of those “Learn a Language in 10 Days” kind of books.