Rocketry: The Nambi Effect

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect

There were lots of movies made on the theme of patriotism, mostly based on Indian Armed Forces and sports stars. Some of them were biopics, too. But how many movies were made on the lives and sacrifices of scientists? Hardly any. Rocketry: The Nambi Effect stands unique for this matter and the movie revolves around the life of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Scientist, Dr. Nambi Narayanan.

Imagine making tremendous sacrifices for the nation, risking your life, and the people pelt stones upon you in return. Imagine the media portraying you as a traitor. Imagine being brutally tortured by the police force. Imagine your family getting shattered. Think of the trauma your family goes through... Dr. Narayanan went through it all.

Most of us might have heard or read about the fabricated spy case that happened in the 90's which shook the ISRO and destroyed the career of Dr. Nambi Narayanan. But little do we know about the contributions of this veteran scientist that propelled the magnificent growth of ISRO. Thanks to the makers of the film for not dramatising and portraying the real character well - a practising Hindu, a fellow colleague of former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and a daring and enthusiastic young scientist mentored by Vikram Sarabhai. The film depicts  the hurdles he had to overcome for the invention of the VIKAS engine, which redefined many successful missions of ISRO.

R Madhavan did justice to the on-screen portrayal of Dr. Nambi Narayanan and excelled off screen as a debut director. The scenes portraying his custodial torture were realistic and strong enough to evoke empathy and dejection in viewers. Simran's performance as Meena, the wife of Dr. Nambi Narayanan drew well on the trauma his family had to go through. It was really heart-wrenching to see an innocent family getting targeted by the people for a falsely created case. There's a scene where Dr. Nambi Narayanan tells the interviewer, ‘To kill a dog, you convince people that it is rabid. They'll finish it without even confirming whether it's true or not’. To bring down a man, you just have to tell people that he's a traitor. A 27-year legal battle still rages on in Dr. Narayanan’s life.

True to these words, our system had failed a person who deserved to be revered along with Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a true patriot, who discarded foreign offers of high salary and settled for bare minimum for the sake of our country. Actors Suriya, in Tamil, and Shah Rukh Khan in Hindi, contributed significantly, giving impact to the questions that unravelled the mystery of Dr. Narayanan’s case.

When the interviewer goes on to record an apology on tape, it felt like he was speaking for every citizen of this nation. The movie silently tells us to be cautious of the enemies, not just outside India but within. It takes upon the onerous job of revealing suffering in the face of sabotage.

Dr. Narayanan was later given a compensation of Rs 1.3 crore by the Kerala government. In truth, he is still fighting a court case against the 18 police officers who had implicated him wrongly under espionage. Recognising his contribution to the development of rocket science in India, the Government of India conferred Narayanan with the country’s third-highest civilian award, Padma Bhushan, in 2019.

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Chinmaya Udghosh