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Parmanu – The Story of Pokhran [2018] Movie Review

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Well! This happens to be one of those films that I watched because my friend dragged me to theatre, and I am happy that he did so and I got to watch it, notwithstanding the fact that the film, Parmanu is flawed.

Plot – Parmanu (2018)

Parmanu is about a secret nuclear test mission of India which was conducted by Indian Army in 1998 at Pokhran, Rajasthan.

Parmanu [2018] – The Story of Pokhran
“Secrets of a secret mission, Indian polity and nationalist bureaucrats.”

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Characters – Parmanu (2018)

1. Ashwat Raina played by John Abraham – A nationalist beaurocrat who is a scientist and has iconoclastic and innovative ideas about India’s nuclear test mission, which he wants to execute in order to contribute something substantial for the country.
2. Captain Ambalica played by Diana Penty – An IB officer with some wit which she uses at her whim and it becomes wistful for the audience. 3. Himanshu Shukla played by Boman Irani – A principal secretary to PM. He is a character of paradoxes. He is dignified for his position and too liberal for us to believe that he is at that huge position.
4. Three other beaurocrats who belong to key organizations in DRDO, ASI and BARC with an Army Major. They all collectively play a vital roles in the mission. Each character has idiosyncratic eccentricities, which adds to some harmless and also unfunny humor.
5. A Pakistani Spy played by Darshan Pandya – A frivolously written character who has lot of acting mettle if exploited a bit. He plays a vital role in the plot, but I feel he should have been written better because being a spy, his dialogues are too expository.
6. Sushma Raina played by Anuja Sathe – Ashwat’s wife – who is rude but caring. To an audience this character remains nondescript.

 

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Right from the word go, the filmmaker shoots an introductory sequence to depict the dramatic premise. Political figures and beaurocrats sitting in a meeting and discussing future plans, wherein Ashwat Raina blows it out of proportion by proposing a nuclear test mission. Baffled and shocked, everyone in the room passes snarky remarks.

What follows later is a sequence of very dirty politics wherein other beaurocrats take authority of the mission and the onus of its failure goes on to Ashwat, who didn’t even get a chance to execute it. Subsequently, he is released from the duty and moves to Mussurrie to spend three years, somehow making the ends meet while her wife continues her job as a scientist.

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It takes 30 minutes for the first plot point to arrive. The problem with the first 30 minutes of the film is that we feel nothing about John’s character. He starts giving a lecture about India’s possibility of being a nuclear state, but all that happens so early in the film that his nationalism gets ridiculously unpalpable. There is a sequence wherein he takes coaching classes of IAS aspirants and the filmmaker depicts the fact that people want a government job to become rich. Such messages are so overt and the scenes are so lazily directed that we again start blaming the actor. However, it is the director who is at fault here as he has taken many shots that don’t add any value to the dramatic premise of the film.

The nuclear mission

The actual drama begins after first plot point wherein Boman Irani’s character offers Ashwat to lead a nuclear test mission, and he takes it up to contribute to the nation, just like his father did; something that touches us only from distance. I think it would have been better if the filmmaker had inserted some montage images of 1962 war, which Ashwat’s father faught and won Veer Chakra in. This would have instilled a human element in the backstory of Ashwat’s family, which would have given us an account of why he is passionate about the mission. The mere isn’t-ness of such scene is perhaps the reason I never really felt anything for the character, except his victimization due to office politics.

Jumping to the nuclear mission, the filmmaker has taken Mahabharata influence and assigned all 6 characters of the team a Mahabharata name (five Pandavas), wherein John’s character is Krishna. This is the second time a desi boy gets to play Krishna. Let’s make some noise for him.

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Nuclear test has a twist in the tale, which is wonderfully explained and portrayed by the director. This is perhaps the best part of the film. The mission needs to be secret and away from the reach of American satellites. ASI fellow suggests the ideal time for preparation (the black hours of satellite). The shots of nuclear test mission are totally worth it and the filmmaker has juxtaposed American satellite shots with progression of the mission beautifully. More so, when you sit at the edge of your seat to know what happens next.

Filmmaking style

The director has a tangible affinity towards moving camera shots. The shots of jeep, the shots of characters working together and more importantly the scenes shot inside the rooms have moving camera photography with lot of what I call “Palmatic Pans.

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About the author

Niraj Jani

The author is a voracious filmgoer and an avid reader; and he is quite clumsy in writing about himself, but he loves to write about cinema. The author believes that he can learn a lot from the readers of his blogs, as he thinks that they are equally perceiving in the field of cinema and have varied perspectives.

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