Essaying history on screen has never been easy, especially for Bollywood. Often it has let its own agenda get the better of the actual work. Outlandish concepts, anachronistic portrayals, and senseless glorification of those who don’t deserve it are a few things that have often destroyed historical films in Bollywood, who could’ve introduced the cinema goers with a slice of India’s rich, gripping history.
‘From Mirza Ghalib’ of the 50s to the likes of ‘Madras Café’, ‘Padmaavat’ etc., there are very few movies in Bollywood which have portrayed Indian history in the way it should be.
But not Parmanu. Directed by ‘Tere Bin Laden’ fame Abhishek Sharma, and starring John Abraham, Diana Penty, Boman Irani, Anuja Sathe in principal roles, this movie is a gritty drama that gets most of the equations right. So without further ado, here’s my honest review of Parmanu
Parmanu Review – The Plot Sketch:-
The movie is based on the daring nuclear tests conducted in Pokhran in the summer of 1998, codenamed ‘Operation Shakti’. It is a fictional account of how Ashwath Raina [John Abraham], a disgraced bureaucrat, successfully conducts these tests against all odds, especially when the likes of USA and Pakistan are hovering like eagles over their ambitions.
Parmanu Review – What’s Good:-
Honestly, I had seriously no expectations from this movie. Despite the amazing plot, the average trailer, coupled by average songs had cut off some interest for this movie within me. But as the movie progressed, the brilliance that ‘Parmanu’ had within itself surprised me like nothing less.
While the elite Bollywood may not accept the winds of change in the tastes and preferences of ‘Bollywood’, the ‘stellar crew’ of this film industry has accepted it and well. For starters, we have a protagonist who is not only a Kashmiri Pandit, but also the son of an illustrious war veteran [though his culture is not explained in this movie]. The name, Ashwath Raina, itself speaks in volumes about the change in Bollywood’s story telling.
Apart from that, Abhishek Sharma’s sleek direction has worked wonders. From staying true to the turbulent era of the 90s, when India was struggling to find a footing for itself on the world stage despite being liberalized on an economic basis, to ensuring the settings of the movie in synchronization with the era the movie is based in.
Another good part about this movie is the adequate representation of female characters, without drowning in the pool of feminism. Anuja Sathe, who says the role of Sushma, Ashwath’s wife, who is also an astrophysicist, is brilliant in her role. While the song snippets released before the actual movie suggested a possible romantic track between Diana Penty and John Abraham, there is none of it at all.
Parmanu Review – What’s Awesome:-
One of the greatest assets of this movie is the actor cum producer, John Abraham himself. Starring in the principle role of junior bureaucrat Ashwath Raina, John for the first time doesn’t flex his muscles and hams his way throughout the film. He rather plays a more nuanced and serious role as Ashwath, who won’t compromise on his ethics in the pursuit of his goals.
He doesn’t believe in taking things lying down, despite being pushed to the wall on several occasions. Even when he is assaulted once in the movie by a mercenary, it looks quite real. Equally outstanding is the supporting cast, led prominently by Boman Irani, who is the tough, no nonsense guy Himanshu Shukla, who takes place as the new principal secretary to the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The exchange between Himanshu and Ashwath is something we’ve only seen before in ‘Baby’: swift and precise, yet informal to core.
Like Neeraj Pandey’s ‘Baby’, Abhishek Sharma’s ‘Parmanu’ has two big assets in its kitty: spontaneous humor and a gripping second half. Much like the disgruntled technocrat Shuklaji [essayed brilliantly by Anupam Kher], Yogendra Tikoo as the quirky DRDO scientist does tickle our funny bones more than once.
Even the guy who is codenamed ‘Sahdev’ in this movie, essays the role of a dedicated scientist with elan. The way he eats banana chips while working on ways to evade the US satellites is something that will surely make your smile.
Also, for the first time, we don’t have a literal, but a technological villain in the form of the Lacrosse satellites, and the spies as shown in the movie weren’t exactly the buffoons we’d rather associate with Bollywood movies, especially in the case of USA and Pakistan, although a few dialogues might force you to think otherwise.
A major credit for that goes to the writing team, which includes the likes of Sanyuktha Chawla Sheikh, who was also instrumental behind the success of ‘Neerja’.
The final 20 minutes give the exact feeling we can associate with movies like ‘Chak De India’, ‘Baby’, ‘The Ghazi Attack’ etc., i.e. gripping, edge of the seat and inquisitive, despite most of us knowing what the ultimate end of this movie is. Some of the dialogues have surely given the liberal intelligentsia massive burns, which is why we hardly have any favorable reviews from their side till now.
Parmanu Review – What’s Bad:-
The only thing that prevented ‘Parmanu’ from replacing ‘Baby’ as an effective, edge of the seat nationalist thriller was the soundtrack. Most of the songs, except for the likes of ‘Thaare Vaaste’, were certainly not in synchronization with the ethos of the movie, and at times, took the sheen off the drama that was to follow.
Other issues that prevented ‘Parmanu’ from soaring high were the pacing of the movie and the portrayal of Diana Penty, as mentioned before. Though she was honest in her attempt, her hairdo and her looks, especially in a testing premise like this, says otherwise. But that is a long way to go.
All in all, Parmanu is one movie that has certainly washed off some of the grime that John Abraham was sporting since ‘Madras Café’. Though it has its own flaws, it is a movie that should certainly not be missed. Having patriotism and brilliant content in just the right degree, ‘Parmanu’ is just the antidote you need. I’d go with a straight 3.5/5.