Bollywood has always been mining the history of India to find and present stories that are patriotic. But recently released Parmanu, the story of Pokhran nuclear tests certainly seems more interesting as, when it happened, it had come as a surprise to everyone around the world. John Abraham’s Parmanu promises to tell the story behind these blasts and what it took for India to become a nuclear state. I caught the press show of the film and here’s what I thought of it…
What’s it all about?
The film is set in the ’90s when there was great political uncertainty after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States of America and China were nuclear powers and India’s neighboring country, Pakistan was on good terms with both. There were reports that China was also helping Pakistan by supplying them with weapons and bombs. There was pressure on India, too, to form an allegiance. Plus, there was the ever-present threat from both sides of the border what with the Chinese testing one bomb after the other. However, while the rest of the officers in the PMO’s office thought mocking the Chinese would be the answer, Ashwat Rana (John Abraham) knew that the best way to get back at them. However, his plans of conducting nuclear tests were taken at face value and when the project failed, they sacked him. After a good three years, when India witnessed a change in power, a team was put together to conduct the tests. Surpassing bureaucracy, politics and technological threats, this team, also comprising of Ambalika (Diana Penty) managed to conduct the tests, making India a nuclear power.
The story of the film itself is riveting. We are talking about a real mission carried out secretly while the American satellites hovered overhead, keeping a close eye – it doesn’t get more thrilling than that! Parmanu: The story of Pokhran, shines when the mission is being planned and executed. You can feel the team’s excitement as they come together to achieve something that will change the course of the country’s future. Each time when their cover is about to be blown, you hope and pray that it doesn’t happen. The film seals the deal with it’s earth-shattering (literally) finale. You find yourself hoping that the team accomplishes what they set out to do, despite knowing fully well, at the back of your mind, that they will. The film’s predictability doesn’t take away from the story at all. In fact, the way it has meshed with real-life footages makes it all the more better, providing a running timeline for the audience to follow. Talking about the performances, both John and Diana are decent in their portrayal. The role required them to be stoic and they have done their best to lend their characters an air of importance. Boman Irani, is, as usual, superlative.
There’s another parallel storyline – that of Ashwat’s personal life. It seemed to not lend much to the story except making provision for a plot point, which, honestly, could have been anything. I felt it took away a lot from the thrill element of the film. At one point in time, which is a rather crucial juncture in the film, the family angle gets really funny. The makers could have done away with it altogether. The next complaint I have with the film is the numerous songs that play in the background, as the characters are seen going about their work. It could have been music. Only it is not. Rajasthani folk songs play, as scientists lower the bombs into the earth or as the security personnel catches the spies. Very incongruous. The film would have highly benefited with tighter editing. That would have amped up the thrill manifold, giving the film the edge it deserved.