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In Conversation with R Madhavan

Photography -Photo Editor Shazid Chauhan

R Madhavan is making his directorial debut with ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect’.  Recently he held a press conference at The Ashok,New Delhi to share his experiences of making the Biopic on Padma Bhushan Nambi Narayanan, Indian aerospace Scientist  who worked for the Indian Space Research Organisation. The scientist was in-charge of the cryogenics division as a senior official at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) He led the Indian team of scientists in developing a sophisticated liquid-fuelled rocket engine, dubbed the ‘Vikas Engine’. Notably, this engine is the mainstay of all operational Indian rockets, to date.

.In 1994, he was falsely charged with espionage and arrested. The charges against him were dismissed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in April 1996, and the Supreme Court of India declared him not guilty in 1998.

The movie is all set to release on 1 July, 2022 and it will be released in various languages English,Tamil,Hindi,Telugu,Kannada and Malayalam across the country.

Why did he choose to make the film?

“When I went to meet Narayanan for the film, like many people, I also just knew about the controversy and legal case.They told me that there is a scientist in Kerala who was wrongly accused of having an affair with a Maldivian woman. He fought his own case and he became victorious. That was the only story I had heard and what most of India knows about Nambi Narayanan,

After playing rugged characters in Vikram Vedha and similar films, I came across the 1994 ISRO spy case and I thought this story would give me a chance to do a ‘James Bond-like’ film There is a beautiful Maldivian woman, handsome Scientist and action, With this intension, I went to Trivandrum to meet him but I was so wrong the way I approached Narayanan’s story. The moment I met him, I could see that deep inside there was a man who was hurt, who was devastated by the accusation that impacted him and his familyEven after over 20 years, he was still angry with how horrible the case was, and I got caught up with it too. There was angst in his eyes. He started talking about the case and there were tears in his eyes, it took me 7 months to write the script.

Nambi Narayanan ‘The Unsung Hero

.”I met him again and showed the script for final approval. He was quite impressed but then during our conversation, very casually Naraynan told that he was the first Indian scientist to go to an Ivy League university (Princeton). I also learnt about his working relationship with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and his friendship with Vikram Sarabhai. I was actually surprised, a genius, an Intellectual, the alumnus of prestigious Princeton is sharing the information in such a light manner. He is that kind of patriot who daily contributes something for the welfare of country. but never ever got recognition.

 At that point, I realised that the script had to be reworked, it had to focus on his journey as a scientist, which we had initially not included and it took me ‘another one and a half years to put the whole script back together’

Soon enough, the scope of the story went beyond its elevator pitch, and I went on to explore Nambi Narayanan’s achievements, which include being one of the first Indian Ivy League students, receiving  $500 million worth of equipment, and learning to build the liquid fuel engine in France.”

Highlights

“I started with his bad qualities and then moved ahead to his achievements.

There is a lot of new information in the film.  You will see Rocket engine which  looks like a diamond pendant. The shooting was done in 8 countries in three languages English,Tamil and Hindi and the story covers the span of 50 years of his life.The film is dubbed in Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada.

.Moreover  no prosthetics were used at all in the film. I did research on various things and came to know .after changing the shape of teeth we can look either older or young..

 I had to sit for 14 hrs to lighten my hair like Naraynan

Whatever weight gain you can see is real

Nothing unreal..Whatever is depicted absolutely correct

He was just trapped because he was living the right life..He was a very handsome genius when he was studying in Princeton.”

The Unconditional Support from Shah Rukh Khan & Suriya

“Be it Suriya or (Shah Rukh) Khan sahab, none of them charge any fee for the film. They didn’t even charge anything for the caravans, costumes, and assistants. Suriya flew out to shoot in Mumbai along with his crew on his own money. He didn’t even charge for the flights or for the dialogue writer who translated his lines in Tamil.”There are a lot of good people in the film industry. But, I’m from outside. People have helped me a lot. Just on my request Amit ji (Amitabh Bachchan) or Priyanka Chopra post a tweet (to support the film). I’m grateful for their love and respect towards me.”

.

Rocketry is the latest addition to the long list of patriotic films to have hit the big screens in recent times such as Major, Shershaah, Sardar Udham, Satyamev Jayate and Bell Bottom, among others. But only factual information is used in this directorial debut of Madhavan.

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