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Antariksham 9000kmph: A mixed bag

Varun Tej in Antariksham

Varun Tej in Antariksham  

‘Antariksham’ gets the space film ambience right but its plot needed more gravitas

Director Sankalp Reddy doesn’t settle for stories that unfold on plain surface. If he sent his actors underwater into a submarine in Ghazi, this time he’s sent them into space. It takes courage to attempt a Telugu film like Antariksham 9000kmph, which would be considered viable primarily in urban centres. Since a sizeable audience in these zones would have watched Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Ridley Scott’s The Martian and several other international space films, Sankalp and team had to ensure that Antariksham doesn’t fall short in its production and visual aesthetics. On those fronts, they manage quite well.

When four Indian astronauts are sent into space on a mission, cinematographer Gnanashekar V S skilfully captures their moves within the cramped spacecraft. He also presents us with some beautiful vistas of the earth in the background when the astronauts are busy fixing satellites. Much before that mission, he uses wide frames to take us into the vast expanses of Rameshwaram. The art and production team led by Ramakrishna and Monika, likewise, do a convincing job of the make-believe spacecraft and space stations.

Antariksham 9000kmph
  • Cast: Varun Tej, Aditi Rao Hydari, Lavanya Tripathi and Srinivas Avasarala
  • Direction: Sankalp Reddy
  • Music: Prashanth Vihari

The 140-minute film doesn’t waste time. A satellite called Mihira could collide with another satellite and the resulting debris can trigger a domino reaction and cause communication blackout. Indian Space Centre (ISC) looks for a solution and the answers may lie with a scientist who’s no longer with the ISC. The narrative seamlessly moves back and forth to introduce Dev (Varun Tej), Mohan (Srinivas Avasarala), Ria (Aditi Rao Hydari), Parvati (Lavanya Tripathi) and Rahman (Chandrakanth), among others. The ego clashes between Dev and Ria set the stage for events that follow.

For a little more than an hour, we wade through a lot of data and wait for all this to be pieced together in an engaging drama. The pace is so unhurried that at times I wondered where the film was headed.

Varun Tej does a good job of depicting his part of a committed, stubborn man on a mission. It’s not easy, however, to empathise with him as he sets out to fulfil a few tasks while in space, adamantly risking everything and sending the ISC into a tizzy. A crew member, understandably, says in exasperation that the spacecraft isn’t a shared auto to be steered off-course at will.

Aditi stays on course and gets that mix of being an assured scientist who later works for the mission with hope and the eagerness to erase the pitfalls of the past. Satyadev in a double role, Raja Chembolu, Srinivas Avasarala and Lavanya Tripathi complete the dependable ensemble cast. Rahman effortlessly steals the show as the director of ISC. He’s stoic and measured in conveying his anxiety when the mission is in progress. In one scene, he paces about ruffling his hair in helplessness, making it look so real.

The space film gets its share of good music from Prashanth Vihari, who knows where to use silence so as to not distract us from the ambience of the astronauts stepping out of the spacecraft.

The biggest grouse, however, is how the mission itself felt as though it was unfolding at a distance. National flags are placed prominently in several frames but the plot needed more gravitas to be able to stoke that feeling of collective pride.

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Printable version | Mar 26, 2020 1:41:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/antariksham-9000kmph-a-mixed-bag/article25799083.ece

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