Antariksham movie review : Sankalp Reddy’s idea is ambitious, but everything else gets lost in space
While Antariksham gives the scope to dream big and aim for the stars for Telugu filmmakers, the fact that it falls way short in its execution needs to be taken into account too
castVarun Tej, Aditi Rao Hydari, Lavanya, Srinivas Avasarala, Raja, Satya Dev
Everything floats in space under zero gravity conditions. Somewhere up there is the idea of Antariksham too, because no matter how ambitious the idea behind the film might seem, there’s nothing that gives it emotional weight, and whatever sense of urgency that writer and director Sankalp Reddy tries to inject, malfunctions in the end. Then, there’s the whole aspect of why the mission is important, but even this gets lost in space because it’s hard to relate to the characters and their journey to space. At no point in the course of the narrative do you feel the necessity to root for whatever unfolds onscreen, whether it’s on Earth or in outer space.
This is a story of Indian Space Centre (ISC) and its efforts to send satellites, and later, a manned mission, to the space and moon. Quite early into the film, we are told that ISC hasn’t been able to establish connection with a satellite, Mihira, which it had launched many years ago. Left with no other option, the team at ISC requests one of their former employees, Dev (Varun Tej) to help them. The rest of the story is about how Dev comes onboard the mission to save the satellite from colliding with another satellite, which could lead to a major disruption in communication systems across the world.
It’s literally a race against time, but then, time moves quite slowly in this world of Antariksham. Before the mission begins, Sankalp tells us a little bit about why Dev had to leave ISC, his romantic interest Parvathy (Lavanya), and another astronaut Riya (Aditi Rao Hydari). The film also dips its feet into the well of nationalism and why India has to be at the forefront of space research. There’s a scene where a bunch of kids ask Dev why India is sending a satellite to the moon, and to this, Dev says, “If we do it first, we’ll lay foundation for a lot of achievements in future.” The kids look at him with plenty of hopes and dreams in their eyes. But then, Murphy’s Law comes into effect soon and before we know it, things go haywire.
In a lot of scenes, the film sounds like a primer about all the precautions and tests that scientists need to undertake and perform when a rocket is about to be launched, and then, Sankalp tells us a lot more about systems onboard that the astronauts need to operate. None of that is likely to register in your mind while watching the film, and it soon turns into a laborious exercise because of its unfamiliar nature. The problem with the film keeps compounding as the space vehicle, carrying the astronauts, goes off its course. It’s really hard to empathise with the characters and their mission, and in the absence of a grave danger, you barely feel the adrenaline rush of these characters racing against time and resources to succeed in their mission. Of course, things go wrong at times, but they are just fleeting moments in the story which don’t make a huge impact.
It’s true that few filmmakers would ever dare to make a film like Antariksham in Telugu, besides the actors. And the pressure to succeed is equally high on them because it sets a precedent for other films and filmmakers. While Antariksham gives the scope to dream big and aim for the stars for Telugu filmmakers, the fact that it falls way short in its execution needs to be taken into account too.
Leave the visual impact of the film aside, Antariksham still lacks the emotional undercurrent that it demands at a fundamental level. It’s about how one man’s ego and stubbornness tests everyone to the limits, but there’s a lack of conflict throughout the story. And the drama which unfolds in space is conveniently resolved without anyone going through a breakdown. This reflects in their body language too. Perhaps, it’s little wonder, that no one believes that their lives are actually in jeopardy.
Yes, the actors have put their best foot forward, whether it’s to stay afloat or make you believe that they are just inches away from failure, and the technicians have tried to do their best, with limited resources, to make this world seem authentic, but it doesn’t reflect in the impression the film makes after an exhausting 140 minutes of runtime. In this case, the distance between the Earth and the moon is the same as the story of Antariksham and its emotional heft. Somewhere up there is a film that deserved better.
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