R. Madhavan has done it. His patience, hard work and determination have resulted in Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, and the film has released to rave reviews. The Free Press Journal caught up with him for an exclusive chat. Excerpts:
How was the process of making such an extensive project like Rocketry: The Nambi Effect?
It was exhausting. In other film projects, you have other people to help and promote, but in Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, everything was on my shoulders. It was quite challenging but quite surprising what our human body can do. If you see pragmatically, I should not have done this movie considering my market capabilities. This is beyond what I generally make in terms of budget too.
I have always had the strength to be honest about myself and my work. Everyone who worked on the film was driven by the same thought that they have to tell Nambi Narayanan’s story. People were stuck with the project for two years without a salary during the pandemic. It wasn’t a passion project. It is sheer madness.
How do you maintain the image of a complete family man along with doing good work?
I have enough flaws. I am good at acting (laughs). Like every family, we have our own huge challenges. Like every son and father, we give each other agony. Honestly, my son has gained more popularity simply because he is my son rather than for his achievements. We are practical as a family, and it comes from hardcore middle-class breeding. I don’t want to be known as a drunkard who crashes his car. I am a really shy person. I only restricted myself to Amitabh Bachchan’s Diwali party and Shah Rukh’s (Khan) birthday party.
Do you think that Indian cinema hasn’t explored the aerospace genre yet?
Indian filmmakers won’t come with the kind of background for making films in this specific genre. It’s not about the budgets at all. If you come from a Raj Kapoor family or a Satyajit Ray family, you are making those kinds of films only. No one wanted to make a film on Aryabhata. Instead, they made Mughal-E-Azam, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The storytellers are not scientifically inclined in India, which left a large gaping hole. When I joined films, a lot of people surprisingly asked me that if I am an engineer, then why am I becoming an actor? Rocketry: The Nambi Effect is just the beginning.
You have been known for doing selective work, and now with Rocketry, you took a plunge. Where do you see yourself from here onwards?
My challenge is now that I don’t want to go on the sets and curse the director. I don’t want to carry the residual stress of what happened in Rocketry: The Nambi Effect with me as an actor because it would be very unfair. As an actor, I have to get into my director’s vision and not change his way of filmmaking. For the next three months, I need to cleanse myself. Thankfully, I did a bit of it through Decoupled.
R. Madhavan talks about the making of Rocketry: The Nambi Effect
"I was bored of shooting in dirty and filthy places with mosquitoes after I finished Vikram Vedha. I got The Railway Men, which was worse than the Tamil films I was doing. In the middle of all this, someone told me that there’s a story of a good-looking scientist from ISRO who had an affair with the Maldivian woman and he sold the techniques of Indian rocketry to Pakistan and therefore, he was put in jail, tortured and almost killed until the CBI took the case under its wings. I agreed and decided to meet this cheap James Bond, and the day I met him, I became a different person. Madhavan before Nambi Narayanan and after meeting Nambi Narayanan are two different people.
I did three and a half years of research. The kind of pain, sadness, anger and aura I saw in him, I had never seen in anyone in life. He was restless about being called a traitor. He told me, ‘If you type my name on Google, you’ll find the ISRO spy case. No one wanted to marry my daughter’. He then told me the whole story of how he had never met the Maldivian woman. I took seven months to write a script, and I went back to Nambi Narayanan with it. He liked the script and told me certain changes. He told me that he went to Princeton University to learn under Professor Crocco of NASA. Also, how he went to Scotland, France and the USSR.
We could have easily sold the film to an OTT platform during the pandemic, but we waited for a theatrical release because we all believed in Nambi Narayanan’s story. Rocketry: The Nambi Effect is by far the longest-awaited film after the pandemic. It was ready before the pandemic, and all the films that were ready are now released. I took four more months to release it on July 1, 2022. I was tired of listening that Indian filmmakers can’t make an Inception, Interstellar or Gravity. Our Mars mission was unbelievable as we did it in the first attempt at a cost cheaper than one Hollywood film production.” As told to The Free Press Journal