Akshay Kumar has competition. John Abraham is trying to usurp his position as the fittest hero in Bollywood and everyone’s saviour. In Abhishek Sharma’s “Parmanu – the Story of Pokhran”, which he co-produced, Abraham attempts to cash in on the chest-thumping genre of nationalism.
He plays Ashwath Raina, an idealistic government officer who, it seems, is the only person in the country capable of coming up with a plan for a successful nuclear test. In the very first scene, a bunch of officers discuss nuclear tests openly, even as tea is being served during the meeting. You’d think a subject like this would deserve the utmost secrecy, but the director doesn’t care too much for believability.
When American satellites catch Indian activity in preparation for nuclear tests in Pokhran, India is forced to abandon its plans and Ashwath takes the flak. Fired from his job and disillusioned with the government’s ineptitude, Raina retires to the hills with his wife and son, only to be called back into action three years later. The new government led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wants to try conducting the nuclear tests again, except it has no idea how to go about it.
Ashwath is tasked with putting together a top team of scientists and soldiers who will make sure preparations for the exercise go undetected by the Americans and the tests are successful. The token female presence in this crack team consists of Ambalika Bandopadhyay (Diana Penty), who has to be the world’s most inefficient intelligence officer. Tasked with keeping the team safe, she can do no better than set new passwords every day, and is seemingly oblivious to the CIA and ISI operatives milling around Pokhran.
To be fair, Sharma and co-writers Saiwyn Quadras and Samyukta Chawla Shaikh aren’t really pre-occupied with these minor details. They have the tough task of making what is an otherwise mundane process into something dramatic and worthy of being called an action movie. After all, how dramatic can laying of wires and the pushing of buttons be?
To take away from the inherent mundanity of the subject, our characters mouth jingoistic dialogue, giving us platitudes about how these tests will change India’s place in the world. None of this is impactful however, because Sharma is saddled with a very middling cast.
Abraham’s lack of expression is only matched by Penty’s perennially open-mouthed appearance, and their scenes are unintentionally funny because they try so hard to muster emotion.
“Parmanu” could have taken a good look at the politics and repercussions of India’s nuclear tests, but who wants to do all the hard work when you can get all the applause for saying “Jai Hind” at the end of the film.