Verdict - Paramanu is a gripping film, but the director or performance is not the one that contributes to that fact!
How do you tell the story of one of the most landmark incidents in the history of the country, especially when that incident is shrouded in thousand conspiracy theories that seem to conflict with each other but all together is one episode that evoked patriotic passions like no other?
With Paramanu the story of Pokhran, director Abhishek Sharma surely had a tough job at hand. The story delves into telling how a team of a bright scientist from BARC Viraf Wadia, a 30 year veteran of DRDO, a gifted scientist from ISA, a rugged army personnel and dynamic officer from RAW come together with a passionate IAS officer to carry out the nuclear test that would change the international diplomatic relations of India with the world forever and make India a nuclear state.
Full marks to the makers for ideating the film and the fact that a film on the Pokhran incident took so much time to be made is baffling. But the main problem arises in the way the film has been tackled and executed.
Due to the secret nature of the real incident it is difficult to be certain about the accuracy of events that took place at the testing range of Pokhran and how the geo-political aspects came into play. There are a ton of conspiracy theories that conflicts each other and makes it difficult to filter out what really happened. Thus the director Abhishek Sharma had a difficult job of research at hand, which he chose to go ahead with. He also had a choice of telling this fascinating tale in a sleek, stylish and crisp spy drama kinda way or give in to the usual trope of garish and over the top notions of patriotism. He chose to go with the later but somehow could not resist the temptation of the former either. As a result the film has intense moments of tension where it truly gives the feel of what might have transpired during that historical incident only to break into a trembling with patriotism moments.
While it is perfectly fine for the director to take a stand on the matter and say the story from that view point, Abhishek Sharma loses the fine balance between having a clarity voice and giving way to propaganda. Saying more than this would amound to a political debate which I don’t want to engage into, but sometimes it is a little too obvious. A sinister background music is played when America is shown and of course there is a token ISI spy who is in the way of our heroes patriotic venture. One could have probably been more cautious about this while dealing with a topic like Pokhran.
The film is also stereotypical in its treatment of some supporting characters. The gifted ISA scientist is a banana chips chewing because how else do we prove that he is a ‘South Indian’ (who would care to find the difference between Tamilians and Malayalis), the DRDO officer has a tendency to forget things, the rich looking scientist has claustrophobia and a phobia of heights and the army major can just look at a ditch and say its 5 degress off to what it should have been and a wife who surprisingly easy to manipulate even though she is shown to be an astro-physicist. It is incredibly sad that we have not been able to get past these in Bollywood yet!
The performance are lack luster as well! John does what he does best that his have a killer body presence and look very intense and not emote anything. Rest of the cast including Boman Irani and Anuja Sathe and all others delivers in the limited premises they have been given.
Cinematographer Zubin Mistry had an interesting job at hand of shooting in the arid, dry and hauntingly beautiful vast expanse of desert in Pokhran. He also had to make the satellite shots and the closed quarter shots of bunkers come alive, which he does. The shots of Lacrosse satellite piercing the clouds and getting a shot of the even the minutest details might capture your imagination!
Unlike most Bollywood films, Paramanu was one film which could have done fine without songs. Not that the songs themselves are bad. Music director Sachin Jigar and in some cases Jeet Ganguli tries to delve into the rich texture of Rajasthani folk music for most of the songs but although not unpleasant the music sounds a little dated. With not even one memorable or hummable track, the music of the film falls flat in terms of recall value.
In conclusion, it can be said that Paramanu is no doubt a gripping but the credit is not deserved by the director or the performance but simply because of the fascinating real-life event it is based on.