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Madhavan on ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect’: ‘We need to showcase India’s scientific achievements’

Actor Madhavan turns director along with his newest ardour undertaking, a biopic on former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan

Actor Madhavan turns director along with his newest ardour undertaking, a biopic on former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan

Filmmaking just isn’t rocket science. Except, for Madhavan, it was.

Between spoonfuls of soup at lunch inside his caravan at Chennai’s Prasad Labs, the place he’s capturing for an commercial, Madhavan, popularly often called Maddy – wearing a crimson shirt and a crisp veshti – recollects the chain of occasions that led to his upcoming debut directorial, Rocketry: The Nambi Effect.

“I have not directed even an iPhone film till now. I have never gone for an edit. I have worked with great directors, but all I have done was my job as an actor, got my money and headed to the bank,” he laughs.

That had to change for his upcoming undertaking, the place the 52-year-old took cost. With just some weeks to go for capturing to start, director Ananth Mahadevan opted out due to different commitments, leaving Madhavan with simply two choices: shelve the undertaking or take cost.

He determined to do the latter. “I have laughed at close friends who have taken up more than one department, because I questioned their expertise to do that. With this film, direction was thrust upon me 25 days before the shoot. We had to shelve it or swim ahead. The desire to tell the story pushed me to keep going.”

Space and time

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect might be Madhavan’s largest undertaking until date. It premiered lately at Cannes 2022 as a part of the Market part. A few weeks in the past, the trailer was showcased on the Nasdaq billboard at Times Square, New York.

A nonetheless from ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect’

The movie, a biopic on former scientist and aerospace engineer at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Nambi Narayanan, will likely be in English, Tamil and Hindi. It showcases how he was falsely accused of espionage and subsequently, how all circumstances in opposition to him have been dismissed by the Supreme Court.

The movie hits screens on July 1, however its journey harks again to greater than 5 years when the actor and the scientist met to focus on a attainable movie undertaking. “I went to meet him (Nambi) with a very shallow James Bond-style idea that I am very ashamed of now,” says Madhavan. “Someone told me that this is the case of a rocket scientist from ISRO who had an affair with a Maldivian woman, and was then arrested, tortured in jail and subsequently proved innocent.”

When Madhavan met the scientist in Thiruvananthapuram, he realised he was studying all of it flawed. “There was far more depth to this man,” he says about Nambi, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2019, “He had done so much for the nation, including building the first liquid engine in India, but just didn’t care to tell anyone. It gave me goosebumps, because I realised, as he told me his life story, that he had put his life at stake on a daily basis. The fever that I got that day has not gone away, and it caught on to every person who read the script.”

That sowed the seed for a movie that quickly turned Madhavan’s ardour undertaking. “We have had great big-budget films on our Independence, but somehow, we have completely missed the amazing scientific achievements in this country. When an American makes First Man or Apollo 13 or Steve Jobs, we imagine that they are capable of that… we have equally great people right here in India.”

The movie did not come collectively with out challenges, after all. For starters, Madhavan had to appear like each the youthful and the older Nambi Narayanan. How did he go about that? “I actually broke my jaw to play the part,” he reveals, sharing a brief video of the method, “The teeth play a vital part in how old or young you look.”

Looking just like the scientist was one factor, the following problem was to get into his thoughts. “I needed to get into his way of thinking, understand what he went through, and how he kept his sanity despite everything,” says Madhavan. “I would call him in the middle of the night to ask questions, and he patiently answered all of them.”

Search for tales

Madhavan burst onto the movie scene with Mani Ratnam‘s Alaipayuthe (2000), which he adopted with romantic Tamil movies like Minnale and Dumm Dumm Dumm, all main to followers describing him because the ‘chocolate boy’ of movies. “I couldn’t have planned any of those things, could I,” he says, trying wistful.

A still from ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect’

A nonetheless from ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect’

“Getting a break with Mani Ratnam is the last thing anyone can plan. And then, finding Gautham Menon for my next film… and Minnale worked,” he says. “I used to always give other people credit for it, which was fair. After two decades, I realised I should give myself some credit for taking those decisions. I have made mistakes, but the fact that I survived them — compared to other people who came with me and aren’t around now — gave me the confidence that I must be doing something right. I started building on that instinct. After 3 Idiots, I realised that I am capable of holding things on my own, and started designing my projects.”

More than 20 years since his breakout Tamil debut, Madhavan has moved on to vital character-driven roles, together with outings within the OTT house. So, how does he select his topics now? “I’m a very limited actor in terms of commercial viability. I don’t have the charm or panache to carry off my films in terms of songs and fights. So, I have to look for stories, which led me to Breathe, Decoupled and Maara. Those stories take their own time, and have to resonate with me, with my state of mind.”

A youthful Madhavan may need depended on his boy-next-door beauty and smile to draw audiences, however not anymore: at 52, Maddy is not within the temper for romance-driven storylines. “Well, I was out of place even when I was doing Alaipayuthe and Minnale, because I was 30. Looking at some of my work then, I’m shocked I survived, because my clothes are out of place and my hair is terrible. Stardom was thrust upon me back then,” he says.

His go-to cinematic themes, at present, are science-fiction topics that intellectually stimulate the viewer and spotlight the nation’s achievements. “I’m tired of people showcasing India in a particular manner in films; I want to make quality films that diversify the way India is seen around the world,” he says, including, “hopefully, Rocketry will be a step towards that.”

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