‘Parmanu’: Too many liberties taken in a story that begs to be narrated straight and simple

Shubha Shetty

Film: ‘Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran’;

Director: Abhishek Sharma;

Cast: John Abraham, Diana Penty, Boman Irani, Anuja Sathe, Aditya Hitkari, Mark Bennington, Yogendra Tikku, Vikas Kumar, Ajay Shankar, Darshan Pandya

Rating: ***

‘Parmanu: The story of Pokhran’ attempts to relate the true story of a brave attempt by Indian scientists to successfully carry out a secret operation to launch its own nuclear tests, even as the US satellites continued spying on us. The idea was to beat China and Pakistan in their own nuclear game and emerge as a nuclear power which it eventually did.

IAS officer, Ashwath Raina (John Abraham) has a brilliant brainwave that India should conduct its own set of nuclear tests as it has been pushed against the wall by China, Pakistan and the US. Raina, who is evidently an out and out patriot, thinks we need to rise above just criticising their actions and show them our might.

He charts out a perfect plan to do this, but his idea gets stolen by a corrupt neta and to top it, the operation has to be aborted midway after US intervention. Disheartened Raina settles for a ‘regular’ life till three years later, under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s PMship, he is summoned again. This time the challenge is to get the nuclear tests done, by hoodwinking the US’ watchful eye.

Raina gets together four super smart scientists and experts, which includes Ambalika (Diana Penty) as part of his core team. Raina’s wife (Anuja Sathe) is unaware of the secret mission and thinks her husband is cheating on her. The mission encounters another roadblock in the form of an ISI agent, who teams up with a CIA agent to find out the truth behind it.

The story of the secret mission of a nuclear operation might not be thrilling enough on its own, but director Abhishek Sharma tries to play safe by making it lot more fiction than fact. The script (jointly written by Selwyn Quadros, Samyukta Chawla Sheikh and Abhishek Sharma) tries packing in a lot of masala to make it palatable, thus ruining the taste in the process.

Too many liberties taken in a story that begs to be narrated straight and simple. The parallel track of wife going batshit crazy over her husband’s infidelities evokes more smirks than emotion. The best part of the film, however, is that Sharma smartly juxtaposes the real footages of speeches given by political leaders, jubilant pictures of Vajpayee and Abdul Kalam (who was a formidable force behind the mission) and also of the CIA chief admitting to their failure after the successful launch of the mission. Also the film, perhaps first time in Bollywood, manages to show the US as the bullies they have been.

What works against the film is the amateur handling of the subject in hand by the director. Sharma, who’s shown his mettle as a director of comedies like ‘Tere Bin Laden’, struggles with a film that proved to be perhaps too much to handle for him. John Abraham is sincere and looks his part. Diana Penty, the actress and her character both disappoint as she has nothing much to do except look pretty. Penty seems to have made no efforts to get into the character and she seems too well groomed with no hair out of place, to be part of this important operation or the film.

Do watch it as it speaks of an important chapter in our history. Only wish it was handled lot better.