Madhavan to star in director Ananth Mahadevan's untitled biopic about ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan
Madhavan is all set to essay the role of former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan being helmed by national award-winning filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan.
Following the box-office debacle of Vettai in 2012, Madhavan took a four-year-long break from Tamil cinema and returned with a bang through super-hit Tamil film Irudhi Suttru where he played the role of a fiery, hot-headed boxing coach with great panache. Last year, he delivered the widely acclaimed blockbuster Vikram Vedha directed by Pushkar and Gayathri. Now, he's all set to essay the role of former senior ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in an untitled biopic, which will be helmed by national award-winning filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan.
In this exclusive chat with Firstpost, Ananth Mahadevan talks about how he is planning to make the film on an international standard, Madhavan's physical transformation, and why he thinks Maddy is the only Indian actor qualified to play Nambi Narayanan.
"I heard about the ISRO spy case and how Mr. Nambi Narayanan who was charged with espionage fought to prove his innocence. It was after that I met him in person in Trivandrum. When I met this gentleman, I learned the whole story behind his life. Unfortunately, it was the spy case that brought him to limelight whereas he should have been known for a much better reason," Ananth told Firstpost about the origin of the film.
Talking about the achievements of Nambi Narayanan and how he was falsely accused, Ananth said, "This is a story space where the Indian cinema has never entered before. Because the frontier is space and the achievement India has made. Nambi Narayanan steered the team that developed the Vikas engine that is used by several ISRO rockets like PSLV. Vikas engine has never failed till date. His son-in-law Subbiah Arunan was Mangalyan's director. This man is closely associated with India's first mission to Mars. Instead of being celebrated, the man was scandalized and humiliated. When a brilliant mind is shut down, and the country shoots itself in the foot, there is a lot to be told."
Ananth said the narrative of this yet-to-be-titled biopic deserved not to be told like the run-of-the-mill biopics. "I see it on a global level, and the entire treatment and approach will be exclusive that I have not seen in the Indian cinema before. For me, this is an opportunity to delve into a life, a system and a conspiracy that is so far-fetching instead. One will be stunned if he comes to know what the classified information which he was falsely charged with the leaking was all about. I wouldn't call this a biopic but an incisive investigation into a brilliant mind and India's ambitious space technology."
Heaping praise on Maddy, Ananth said, "For a film like this, we cannot think of an actor who is not educated or aware. The actor should not only be in tune with just politics and general awareness but science itself. And Madhavan is an electronics engineer, and he knows science and what rockets are. He also had a stint in Indian air-force training. Unless the actor is aware of what the subject is all about, he will not know how to handle the nuts and bolts when I put him in the ISRO laboratory. I don't want bloomers happening in my film. I think Madhavan is the only Indian actor qualified to do this part because he is a thinking-actor who is also well-read."
The film is planned to be made as a trilingual in Tamil, English, and Hindi. "Madhavan and I put this project together, and we have gone very deep in the research of rockets and Nambi Narayanan's life. We will go on floors in a month or two, and it is going to be a trilingual — Tamil, English and Hindi. The film has English portions in Princeton and Russia, Tamil in Sriharikota amongst the scientists and Hindi for the CIA officials. It will be a tri-lingual in its truest essence."
Asked about the kind of physical transformation of Maddy for the film, he said, "Madhavan's character starts as 27-year-old Nambi Narayanan in Princeton till the age 70. So we are shooting the film in three stages: first in his early thirties to mid-forties, next from mid-forties to late fifties — that's when the spy case actually happens and finally in seventies, where he recalls everything. He has to undergo the transformations for each phase. He is going to do all himself."
"There are no plans for much prosthetics. Maddy is working hard to resemble Nambi Narayanan in every period," said Ananth on a concluding note.
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