Director- Abhishek Sharma
Starring- John Abraham, Boman Irani and Diana Penty
Rating- 3 stars
Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran documents the story of the Pokharan nuclear tests of 1998 when India tricked CIA satellites to conduct the tests. The film is a mix of fiction and facts, the first half of which takes time to build the setting and the characters while the second half becomes a thriller as it struggles in its mission against time.
The film works for multiple reasons. It, despite packing in valuable information about the nuclear tests, doesn't get too dense or too dumb. It never underestimates audiences' intelligence nor does it bombard you with too much data. It smartly picks the odds against the mission; a Pakistani spy, nosy CIA satellites and a marriage that faces the brunt of the mission, keeping the emotional quotient of the film intact.
Even the names of the shafts are the same that have relevance towards the end of the film. The pace, especially in second half, keeps you engaged, if not on the edge of your seat.
Parmanu also brilliantly blends in relevant footage of international leaders speaking about India's attempt at conducting nuclear tests that lends credibility to the scenario. We never see the Prime Minister of India but enough archival footage of the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee is used that makes you buy into the story. Then there are scenes featuring Bill Clinton, Benazir Bhutto and even George Tenet, the director of CIA, as he admits his mistake in not being able to predict the tests. The usage of these recordings are clever and credible.
However the film is not without its share of problems. It inserts just too many songs, trying to manipulate emotions. There is a Sapna toot gaya kind of a song that plays at the failed Pokharan attempt in 1995. Then suddenly everyone starts thumping their chests when they start the mission, with a song that ticks all 'deshbhakti' words - Josh, Jaljala and Jaan… tch tch tch, too juvenile! There are some brief random travel shots of the desert; of kids playing, men with big moustaches and women dancing in colourful clothes as the setting shifts to Rajasthan. It doesn't blend in with the texture of the film at all.
Finally, there is a sattar minute kind of speech (remember SRK’s famous monologue in Chak De India?) towards the end where John Abraham’s Ashwat Raina (the chief of the mission) motivates his team. The speech is so lacklustre that one might give up instead of being inspired. Yawn. This attempt to play to the gallery takes away from the seriousness of the theme. I wish the director Abhishek Sharma resisted these temptations.
The film gets most facts right around the nuclear tests but alas it plays Mahabharat on TV in 1998 when the show actually aired on TV in 1990. I mean, it isn't even Sooryavansham that it will be replayed on Sony Max! *Wink. Wink*. However, I enjoyed the brief 'incoming ke paise lagte hain' mobile joke in a very intense scene.
John Abraham despite all his limitations as an actor is extremely earnest not only in his performance but also in his intention to tell the Pokharan tale. His most honest moment comes towards the end when he breaks down in tears. Boman Irani is a delight to watch. He gives a controlled and classy performance as the PM's secretary.
Despite resorting to some very obvious tricks, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran remains noble in its intention of telling a historic tale that made every Indian proud. It's a good one time watch.