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Parmanu:  The Pokhran Nuclear Tests Don’t Deserve This Dull Film

The background score does more acting than John Abraham here.

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Parmanu

Parmanu

Camera: Shiv Maurya
Editor: Rahul Sapui
Producer: Abhishek Ranjan

On 11 May 1998, India was declared a full-fledged nuclear state after the successful Pokhran tests. It was a huge victory, considering India cocked a snook at the world and managed to hoodwink the US spy satellites. The episode, considered a defining moment in the country’s history, is also touted to be one of the CIA’s biggest intelligence failures.

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In Abhishek Sharma’s film Parmanu, Ashwath Raina, an earnest IAS officer, has in his possession a floppy disk containing a blueprint of India’s nuclear test as he desperately tries to get an audience with the Prime Minister. It’s another matter that John Abraham decides to play this inspiring character in a lumbering fashion.

Things pick up a bit after we have been bored enough with the whole palaver of how Raina wants to do “desh seva” but isn’t getting his “mauka”. Don’t be surprised if the background score does more “acting” than the lead here.

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It’s only through the tone and cadence of the music that we truly understand the urgency of the situation. We have no other choice, because if we were to rely solely upon the frown that descends on John Abraham’s brows, we’d probably conclude that he was sleepwalking in the middle of a sandstorm.

The top-secret mission sees Raina employ some rather unique methods to gather a team of experts. He spots photos of said experts in scientific journals, surreptitiously tears off the pages, and puts the folded pieces into his trouser pockets. When the moment arrives, and he meets the Principal Secretary to the PM (Boman Irani), our man Raina sticks the crumpled pages on a black board and names the members after the Pandavas from Mahabharat.

Diana Penty aka Capt Ambalika is re-christened Nakul. With her flawless makeup and hair, she seems Vogue ready for a photo-shoot even in the most gruelling of landscapes.

Boman Irani and Yogendra Tiku are always dependable, even if there isn’t much for them to do in this film. Anuja Sathe plays Raina’s on-screen wife but the unnecessary marital discord side plot hardly helps matters. Parmanu follows a predictable trajectory. While some scenes in the second-half manage to get us invested in the proceedings, and make us feel some of the dizzying urgency that such a story warrants, the film is boring and flat.

The story of the historic Pokhran nuclear tests deserves a better film (and so do we).

I give 2 quints out of 5.

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