Director - Abhishek Sharma
Starring - John Abraham, Boman Irani and Diana Penty
Rating- 4 Moons
Parmanu documents the story of Pokhran in 1998 when India tricked CIA satellites to conduct nuclear tests. The film is a mix of fiction and facts, the first half of which takes time to build the setting and the characters, the second half becomes a thriller as it struggles in its mission against time.
A still from the trailer
The film works for multiple reasons. It, despite packing invaluable information about the nuclear tests, doesn’t get too dense or too dumb. It never underestimates audiences’ intelligence nor bombards 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.
The film also brilliantly blends in the relevant footage of international leaders speaking about India’s attempt at nuclear tests, that lends credibility to the film. We never see the Prime Minister of India, but enough archived footage of Atal Bihari Vajpayee is used that makes you buy into the story. There is footage of Bill Clinton, Benazir Bhutto and even George Tenet, the director of CIA, as he admits his mistake of not predicting the tests in Pokhran. The usage of this footage is clever and credible.
The film has a few songs, trying to manipulate emotions. There is Sapna Toot Gaya that plays at the failed Pokhran attempt in 1995. Then suddenly everyone starts thumping their chests when they start the mission, with a song that ticks all desh bhakti words – Josh, Jaljala and Jaan. 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. And then there is a Sattar Minute kind of speech towards the end where John’s character Ashwat motivates his team.
A still from the trailer
The film gets its facts right around the nuclear tests. John Abraham, who was always said to have limitations as an actor, is extremely earnest not only in his performance but in his intention to tell the Pokhran tale. So earnest that for the first time since he burst onto the Bollywood screen as a hunk hewn out of muscle and brawn, he takes a beating from the baddie in this film. 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. Even Diana Penty, athletic and tall in her Army uniform, comes across as an Intelligence officer made of the right stuff. Parmanu remains noble in its intention of telling a historic tale that made every Indian proud. It’s a good watch. Especially if you don’t know your history.