The journey of Indian scientist and aerospace engineer Nambi Narayanan is set to be recreated in the biopic Rocketry – The Nambi Effect, starring R Madhavan. The actor is also directing the film with Anant Mahadevan.
The teaser, released today, begins with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s September 2014 announcement about the successful launch of the Mars Orbiter Mission. Observing from a distance, Madhavan’s character says, “What If I tell you that we could have achieved this feat 20 years ago? My name is Nambi Narayanan. I’ve spent 35 years in rocketry and 50 days in jail. The story is about the irreparable loss experienced by our country during those 50 days. It is not about me.”
In the 1990s, Narayanan was in charge of the cryogenics division of the Indian Space Research Organisation. He introduced liquid rocket fuel technology to India in the 1970s and two decades later, his team was spearheading the production and use of cryogenic-based fuels using technology provided by Russia (a variant of which was used for the Mangalyaan mission).
Their plans came undone after he and a few other ISRO scientists were arrested by the Kerala police and charged with espionage in 1994, a case that was later struck down. Narayanan had been accused by the Intelligence Bureau for selling highly confidential information to a Maldivian woman, who in turn passed it on to Pakistan. He was in prison for 50 days. The charges against him were dismissed as false by the Central Bureau of Investigation in 1996 and then the Supreme Court in 1999.
Since then, Narayanan, who retired from ISRO in 2001, has sought justice for his ordeal. In September this year, the Supreme Court announced that the Kerala government should pay him Rs 50 lakh as damages, and said that he was “unnecessarily arrested and harassed” which hurt his career and had a “catastrophic effect” on his life. Naryanan detailed his experience in the 2018 book Ready To Fire: How India And I Survived the ISRO Spy Case, co-written by Arun Ram, and in a 2016 biography in Malayalam.
Rocketry – The Nambi Effect will be released in multiple languages including Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu. The film is expected to be released by mid-2019.