Parmanu The Story of Pokhran Review: John Abraham's film climaxes at the right time

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Bollywood.com Rating: 
3.5
Average: 3.5 (1 vote)

By Rohit Vats, Hindustan Times

On a scorching May afternoon, an American spy, while sitting at an urbane cafe in Jaisalmer, advises his bosses to be careful about some suspicious activities near the nuclear site in Pokhran. 

He almost begs to be taken seriously, but the in-charge back home is very confident of the state-of-the-art Lacrosse satellites America uses for surveillance. He believes technology more than the intuition of the on-field agent. It turns out to be one of the biggest intelligence failures in the history of the CIA.

The first draft of India’s nuclear bomb explosion was written in the year 1995, but a grave mistake leaked the information to the west, and the plan was abandoned under severe diplomatic pressure.

Parmanu The Story of Pokhran begins here with Research And Test Wing’s Ashwat Raina (John Abraham), who is still ruing over the apathy displayed by the Prime Minister’s Office, PMO, during crucial moments. He had proposed the idea of nuclear test at a high-level meeting where the PM’s representative looked more interested in the snacks than the strategy.

Life has come a full circle for Ashwat, and he is called back by the PMO to re-launch the nuclear programme. It’s a shaky start with actors trying to adjust to their non-melodramatic characters. The writers mean business and thus nobody is allowed to take extra-long pauses. Important information about satellites, code-words and blast site are conveyed in a matter-of-fact tone.

Initially, it appears over simplified. Is it really this easy to dodge the world’s most efficient surveillance system? But this simplicity also makes the plan believable. One step at a time, characters begin to fit into the story.

The director, Abhishek Sharma, shows restrain and doesn’t hurry into the matter. He lets the plan sink in into the minds of the viewers. They know what to expect.

It’s a tricky situation. Parmanu is a film based on a real event that took place not long ago. You can easily predict the direction of the wind. A structure has already developed. The only way to stop the audiences from losing interest is by keeping them thrilled.

Sub plots are introduced for this purpose and they serve the purpose effectively. In fact, the film doesn’t totally lose its sheen and engagement value because of the two spies introduced mid-way. Played by Mark Bennington and Abhiroy Singh, they add sleekness to Parmanu, usually non-existent in Hindi films.

There is also an attempt to introduce dark humour. It sometimes works, especially during an emotionally charged scene between John Abraham and Anuja Sathe, his wife in the film.

Parmanu revolves around John Abraham’s personality. There are dark edges and the writers dare to touch them. Maybe unintentional, but their idea of a headstrong and nationalist government servant sometimes looks like a plea for war. Thankfully, they control it in time and let the theme take over.

Sharma has judiciously used the real footage. That take the focus away from uncertain actors and breaks the monotony of shooting at the same location.

John Abraham’s deadpan expressions are a hindrance but he somehow manages to hold his ground. Other actors follow his footsteps. It’s the writing that saves the day for Abraham and Parmanu.

Actually, the best moments of Parmanu arrive towards the end, just when they are needed. A film that was slowly progressing towards a definite end in the first half starts to gather steam 20 minutes into the second half.

Suddenly, the events begin to unfold at a better pace. Small spoiler here, but the intercutting between the blast site and the PMO adds to the tension mostly absent in the first half. In fact, urgency is the word that defines Parmanu to a large extent. Had they shown more of it in the first half, it would have been a much better film!

Climax saves Parmanu from drowning in the dust of Pokhran. It picks up the pace at the right junctures, and gives audiences the choice to overlook some sketchy acting. At 129-minute duration, Parmanu keeps you hooked once you let the dull opening scenes pass.