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Will end fight once people who fabricated ‘spy charge’ are punished, says Nambi Narayanan

On ThePrint’s Off The Cuff, former ISRO scientist Narayanan talks about the time he was wrongfully accused of leaking classified information on India’s space programme to Pakistan.

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Delhi/Mumbai: The only regret former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan has when he was falsely implicated in the 1994 espionage case, was not getting the support from scientific and academic stalwarts when it would have “really mattered”. He, however, acknowledged the support he received from them later.

Narayanan was in conversation with ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta and Senior Associate Editor Manasi Phadke during a virtual session of ‘Off The Cuff’ Thursday, along with actor-director R. Madhavan, while promoting his biopic, ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect‘.

The biographical drama, which marks Madhavan’s directorial debut, traces the life of Nambi Narayanan. It was released theatrically on 1 July and has received positive feedback from critics.


Also read: ISRO spying case: CBI submits report in sealed cover in Supreme Court


The ‘spy scandal’

In 1994, Narayanan was accused of being a ‘spy’ and leaking classified information on India’s space programme to two Maldivian intelligence officers, Mariam Rasheeda and Fauzia Hassan, who then allegedly sold the drawings and documents of ISRO’s rocket engines to Pakistan.

In 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) dismissed him of all charges, while the Supreme Court declared him “not guilty” in 1998.

Twenty years later, Narayanan maintained he would still like to keep reminding himself why he fought the case

“The fight will end when the people who fabricated it [spy allegation] are punished appropriately,” 80-year-old Narayanan affirmed.

When asked if he ever got to know about the motive of the conspirators or if they were ever named and punished, Narayanan said he “guessed that they worked on somebody else’s instructions”.

“To the best of my knowledge, I did not have any personal enmity with anyone. There must be some conspiracy at the national or international level,” he added.

On being asked about how he persevered through the long trial and kept his spirit intact, Narayanan narrated he was out of his financial depth so much so that he argued in court and felt like “giving up” many times, but it was the “sheer willpower” that kept him going.

“You get frustrated, agitated, and feel dreams being shattered. You can’t get out of it easily” Narayanan revealed.

In addition to playing the role of Narayanan in the biopic, Madhavan — who wrote, produced, and directed — the film revealed he struggled to find producers for the film despite it being a compelling story.

“This film was as new a concept as can be. Not only was it a biopic, but it was also about a rocket scientist with no commercial elements so people were very hesitant,” the actor-director said, while not wanting to justify the expenses of the biopic.

“If I was going to spend a certain amount of money to show Vikas engine and its firing which has never been shown before in the history of cinema, I didn’t want to justify the money I spend on showcasing it appropriately,” he asserted.

On ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect

Madhavan revealed that the film went on floors well before Narayanan received compensation or was given the Padma Bhushan award.

“I decided very consciously to make a film that will stop people from looking at Nambi Sir only as somebody involved in a spy case because that’s not him,” he said.

The film was shot originally in English and then simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil. Shah Rukh Khan and Suriya made guest appearances in the Hindi and Tamil versions respectively.

Narayanan, who is the inspiration and central character of the film, said that the film is 100 per cent true to the core.

“I do not think they have taken any [creative] liberty. The idea was to bring the truth to the public view.” he added.


Also read: ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan says Kalam wanted him to give up fight, but he refused


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