Running passionately for two hours and ten minutes, PARMANU: THE STORY OF POKHRAN rekindles the historic moment of pride and respect for our India. The dramatized account on how twenty years ago on May 11, 1998, India conducted the landmark Pokhran-II nuclear test at the Pokhran test range in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. The series of five nuclear explosions under the leadership of late President APJ Abdul Kalam that completely bamboozled the western intelligence and made India a nuclear power demands compulsory viewing for those who love India and are true Indians.
Sanyukta Shaikh Chawla, Saiwyn Quadras and Abhishek Sharma dramatize the real life incident for screen and after a brief introduction highlighting the prevailing situation in the world where Russia has lost its supremacy as a super power and China emerging as a threat while USA is continuously supporting Pakistan, danger is looming over India. A meeting at PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) introduces Ashwath Rana (John Abraham) an IAS officer from the research department of the Central Government who advises the top brass present to conduct nuclear bomb tests in order to achieve supremacy in this field and establish fear among the nuclear powers of the world. Ashwath Rana’s noble intentions fall prey to politics and bureaucracy. The plan gets accepted but the architect himself gets eliminated and the test is conducted without Ashwath’s help and guidance, the plan fails miserably. The powerful USA’s satellites catch India preparing for the tests red handed. India faces humiliation and Ashwath obviously becomes the scapegoat. Ashwath leaves Delhi and lives with his family in Mussoorie doing odd tuitions to IAS aspirants while wife Sushma (Anuja Sathe) works in an observatory. Three years later in 1998, India observes a change in government, Atal Bihari Vajpayee is made the Prime Minister and his principle secretary Himanshu Sharma (Boman Irani) instigates a secret inquiry on what went wrong at Pokhran three years ago. Ashwath is summoned and a new plan is chalked out. A team of five diehards from different departments comprising of Ambalika (Diana Penty) from the defense, Dr. Viraf Wadia (Aditya Hitkari) from BARC ( Baba Atomic Research Centre) , Dr. Naresh Sinha (Yogendra Tikku) from DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation), Major Prem Singh (Vikas Kumar) from the army and space satellite detection expert Purunganathan. Rest is how the team fights all the odds - the weather, the mighty American spy satellites that can even detect the time in your watch from space and conduct the test while the satellites look the other way. The team is disguised as army personals and called by names inspired from the five Pandava’s from Mahabharata.
Director Abhishek Sharma (TERE BIN LADEN series, THE SHAUKEENS) and the writers Saiwyn Quadras (NEERJA, MARY KOM), Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh (BOBBY JASSOS) try their best to make PARMANU: THE STORY OF POKHRAN into a crowd pleaser and succeed. While the passion and the noble intention is rock steady throughout, the detailing is overall accurate but some glaring loopholes like John Abraham’s motivation from Mahabharata is not rightly timed. B.R. Chopra’s epic television series MAHABHARATA was aired from 2 October 1988 to 24 June 1990 and Pokhran test happened on May 11, 1998. The writer director in their enthusiasm to make the movie mass appealing add unnecessary elements like John’s wife episode in Pokhran which results in the movie compromising on its relevance. The mention of India’s previous nuclear triumph ‘Smiling Buddha’ is mysteriously absent.
Nevertheless, director Abhishek Sharma brilliantly uses the archival footage of the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, US President Bill Clinton, Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto during the duration to give the movie its required authenticity even the reaction of George Tenet - the director of CIA admitting the failure of the nosy CIA satellite and it’s agency in predicting the test is cleverly used.
John Abraham carries the film on his shoulders and is earnest throughout. Subtle, controlled, fighting the demons of betrayal in 1995 and constantly keeping the fire to make his nation strong and his countrymen proud is done with honesty and sincerity.
Boman Irani in one word is outstanding. Diana Penty is fantastic. Vikas Kumar is competent. Yogendra Tiku is marvelous. Aditya Hitkari leaves his mark. Darshan Pandya is fabulous. Anuja Sathe is fine in her role.
Production values are first rate and technically polish. Zubin Mistry’s raw cinematography captures the desert of Rajasthan impeccably. Rameshwar S Bhagat’s editing is sharp. Special mention for T P Abid and Sandeep S Ravade’s production design is a must.
Bollywood has seen movies on patriotisms, from mass pleasing Pakistan bashing blockbusters to a subdued melancholy on the effects of war where humanity loses the battle, PARMANU – THE STORY OF POKHRAN is different and unique. More than entertainment or a cinematic documentation of the great Indian nuclear triumph, the movie rekindles the respect for our nation – India, The charismatic Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the inspirational legend APJ Abdul Kalam.
We may have our political views and that debate will be always on, PARMANU: THE STORY OF POKHRAN starring John Abraham in lead unites every true Indian and makes their heart feel with pride and respect and that’s the biggest triumph of this well intended movie.
Highly recommended: Watch it if you are a true Indian, the end credits will broaden your lips with a smile and swell your heart with pride.