Bollywood has always made sure that patriotism is aptly shown as jingoism. Alia Bhatt’s thriller last month, Raazi, was one odd case of nationalism served right. Director Abhishek Sharma’s John Abraham starrer, Parmanu, is a movie on the famed nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1998, showered with all the quintessential cliches of Bollywood.
Ashwat Raina (played by John Abraham), is a righteous IAS officer with the Research and Strategy Department of GoI, dismissed after the failure of the Pokhran Nuclear Tests in 1995, that put India on the backfoot in the global arena. A dejected Ashwat is brought back from his self-imposed exile by the newly formed Atal Bihari Vajpayee government – a secret mission spearheaded by Principal Secretary to the PM, Himanshu Shukla (played by Boman Irani). Ashwat uses his indigenous ways of forming a highly efficient team of scientist and army personnel - by reading the interviews and magazine articles of these folks! The covert operation needs to be executed in record time, with minimal resources and while warding off the American spy satellites. The same is executed with generous dosage of melodrama, extremely contrived sub-plots and a poor display of acting skills.
I understand cinematic liberty is taken open-handedly in Bollywood, and most patriotic movies end up being jingoistic, but my problem with Parmanu is the blurring of lines between fiction and facts. It is a well-known fact that Pokhran – II was a mission headed by former President A P J Abdul Kalam. There is no reference of him in the movie, instead, it tries to glorify Ashwat, a character it conveniently says, ‘will go down in the history unknown’. Keeping aside the distortion of facts, the movie also has some blaring mistakes in creating a world of the 90s – a volvo bus, chrono watch and practically entire wardrobe of Diana Penty – all way ahead of their time. I cannot help but compare with Raazi, where even though you know the outcome in the end, you are constantly on the edge of your seat. Sadly, the same cannot be said about Parmanu.
John Abraham, also the producer of the movie, in an interview to Rajeev Masand admitted that he did not want this movie to become falsely patriotic or jingoistic. It was not overtly patriotic like Border or Airlift, but had doses of monologues delivered by Ashwat about how the success of this mission will catapult the country into an elite league. And, he remains monotonous, like he has been in all his movies in the last 15 years. Boman Irani gets a decent role as the powerful bureaucrat, but has it is not meaty enough. Diana Penty has nothing much to do, except for uttering clichéd Bollywood dialogues as ‘passcodes’. The rest of the team is just about okay, with no performance in particular to rave about. Also, a special mention of Anuja Sathe, as Ashwat’s wife Sushma, who is a complete non-performer.
I think as an audience, I have been spoilt by a better portrayal of nationalism in Raazi. Had Parmanu release a couple of weeks ahead of Raazi, maybe it would have worked for me. But then, the creative liberties are too much to be overlooked. Watch it on TV, if you must!
My Rating: 2/5