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‘Releasing the film was like conducting a nuclear test’: John Abraham on his embattled ‘Parmanu’

The spat between the movie’s producers has finally been settled, paving the way for its release.

The trailer launch of John Abraham’s embattled film Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran echoed its nationalistic theme. The event on Friday in Mumbai commenced at 3.45pm – the exact moment when India conducted a round of nuclear tests in Pokhran in Rajasthan in 1998.

“This is our country’s film,” the host declared, mirroring John Abraham’s dialogue from the trailer: “Whatever we achieve, it is for our country.”

Directed by Abhishek Sharma, Parmanu recreates the build-up to the Pokhran tests. “It is a pro-Indian film,” Abraham said at the event in Mumbai. “For a lot of people here who are young, the reason why India is cool and why Indians feel cool is because of what happened at Pokhran. It is a history-defining moment.” The film, which also stars Diana Penty and Boman Irani, will be released on May 25.

Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran (2018).

The event was also aimed at telling the world that the battle between the movie’s producers, Abraham’s company JA Entertainment and KriArj Entertainment, has been settled. While Abraham alleged that KriArj had defaulted on payments, leading to numerous delays in the release, KriArj claimed that budget overruns had stalled the project. Abraham filed three complaints against KriArj for cheating, breach of trust, defamation and offences committed under the Information Technology Act.

The Bombay High Court on Friday ruled that KriArj will no longer be a part of the film, and that Vashu Bhagnani’s Pooja Entertainment will take on distribution duties.

Abraham acknowledged that the promotional activities have taken a hit due to the skirmish. “Releasing the film itself was like conducting a nuclear test, and it has finally happened,” he joked at the Mumbai event. “Controversies aside, it is the film that the people will talk about. We have got two weeks to run this film in terms of promotions. We don’t have the luxury of time to promote the film. But we have the luxury of a great subject. After a point, it’s not about a film anymore. It’s about credibility. We are vindicated. You want the audience to see a good film. So we fought our way and are standing here.”

Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran (2018)|Image credit: JA Entertainment/Kyta Productions.
Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran (2018)|Image credit: JA Entertainment/Kyta Productions.

For director Abhishek Sharma, who has directed the comedies Tere Bin Laden (2010), its sequel Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive (2016) and The Shaukeens (2014), the challenge was to keep the film informative and entertaining at the same time.

“It is a very entertaining film but we have maintained the fabric,” Sharma said. “The characters are fictional, but the plot is not. The incident was no less cinematic. To take that subject and to make an entertaining film was the biggest challenge. Probably that was the reason nobody in the film industry had attempted it.”

Abraham drew parallels between Ben Affleck’s American film Argo and Parmanu: “Like in Argo, even in this film, you will be on the end edge of your seats,” he declared.

The research for Parmanu included conversations with the Indian army personnel who were involved with the undercover mission. “We met one of the real people who was involved with Pokhran,” Sharma said. “He told us not to Bollywood-ise it. He helped me with a lot of details. My last question to him was about how the bomb looked like. And he told me when the meeting was over told me to use my imagination. Even off the record, some information was sensitive and confidential.”

Abraham, who was last seen in Abhinay Deo’s action drama Force 2 (2016), added that he was happy to make a return to the big screen with a film he believed in. “I like taking time,” Abraham said. “I wanted a good subject. I just wanted to do one film and do not have a problem taking my time. Instead of jogging your pelvic muscles in dance numbers, you have got to jog your brains also with some films.”

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