You must know: Why Madhavan's 'Rocketry' is in trouble and what do former scientists allege?

(This article is authored by Alar) 

R Madhavan's debut directorial 'Rocketry: The Nambi Effect' landed in legal trouble months after the release and the trouble was launched by a handful of former ISRO scientists who alleged that most of the claims made in the movie were false. They have made shocking statements that were in a fashion of testing the heart of the movie that has done well at the box office. 

On Wednesday, a group of former scientists addressed the media in Thiruvananthapuram to counter the claims that were made in the movie. They include Dr A E Muthunayagam, Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Prof E V S Namboothiri, project director, cryogenic engine and D Sasikumaran, the Deputy Director, the cryogenic engine of ISRO. They alleged that at least 90% of matters mentioned in R Madhavan's Rocketry movie in connection with ISRO are false.

The biopic movie is based on the life of former scientist Nambi Narayanan of ISRO who was charged with espionage. The movie revolves around how he was treated at the prison and how he won the battle and cleared the charges against him. Madhavan plays Nambi Narayanan in the movie and it was released on July 1, 2022. Nearly two months after the release, some former scientists have now come forward with new claims against the movie. 

The former scientists have said that Nambi Narayanan's arrest had not caused any delays in the development of cryogenic engines or resulted in significant financial losses for the nation. The scientists claimed that Nambi Narayanan was misrepresenting the situation. According to Muthunayagam, this was disrespectful to ISRO and the hundreds of scientists who have been working together on this project. Scientists said at the meet, "ISRO started the process of developing its own cryogenic engine in the mid-eighties, EVS Namboothiri was in charge of this." 

"Twelve volumes were developed by a group led by EVS Namboothiri. At that time, Nambi Narayanan had nothing to do with cryogenics. Later, under the leadership of Gnana Gandhi, the development of the cryogenic engine started, but Nambi Narayanan was not in that team", they contended. They further said, "We are forced to tell the public certain matters as Nambi Narayanan has been defaming ISRO and other scientists through the movie Rocketry: The Nambi Effect and also through television channels." 

"His claims that he is the father of many projects are false. He even claimed in the movie that he once corrected APJ Abdul Kalam, who went on to become the Indian President. That is also false", the former scientists added. They said that they have asked the current chairman of ISRO S Somanath to take a decision on the false claims made in the movie.  

Muthunayagam stated that while in custody during the espionage case in 1994, Narayanan frequently claimed that he had been subjected to severe torture by the police. However, another ISRO scientist, D. Sasikumaran, who was also a defendant in the case, claimed that he had been detained for nearly 12 days but had only endured humiliations. Narayanan had only spent three days in police custody, according to Sasikumaran. 

He also added, "I appointed Nambi Narayanan as the project director when the Cryogenic Propulsion System project started at LPSC in 1990". The scientists highlighted, "We also came to know that Narayanan has claimed in some television channels that all that was said in the movie was true. Some scientists have even raised concern that Narayanan was taking credit for many of their achievements." It is pertinent to note that neither Narayanan nor the producer of the movie comment on the allegations from the former scientists. 

Rocketry was made at a budget of Rs 25 crore and it has grossed Rs 50 crore at the box office. While Madhavan played the lead role, Simran, Rajit Kapur, Ravi Raghavendra, Misha Ghoshal, Karthik Kumar, Dinesh Prabhakar, and Mohan Raman acted in important roles. Suriya has featured in a guest appearance in the Tamil version of the movie. Sam CS composed the original score while Sirsha Ray and Bijith Bala handled the cinematography and editing, respectively. On May 19, 2022, Rocketry had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. On July 1, 2022, it was theatrically released in India in English, Tamil, and Hindi.