MILPITAS, California — Indian film star R. Madhavan and Padma Bhushan awardee Nambi Narayanan visited the Bay Area June 7, to promote their new film “Rocketry: The Nambi Effect.” 

Excited fans gathered at the University of Silicon Andhra campus here. Wearing a Black t-shirt, jeans with gold zippers, hair slicked back, and the requisite cooling glasses, “Maddy,” as he is known, looked casual and relaxed, despite being stuck in East Bay traffic for an hour. 

Nambi Narayanan

Madhavan wrote the script. He also directed, produced and acted in the lead role. And while that was impressive, Madhavan emphasized that what was really impressive was the real life story of Nambi Narayanan, on which the film is based. 

R. Madhavan (center) walks the red carpet at the meet and greet for for their movie, Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, at the University of Silicon Andhra campus in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Narayanan is a former aerospace engineer and scientist who previously worked for the Indian Space Research Organisation. He was accused of espionage. “Rocketry” explores Narayanan’s days at Princeton, and the espionage charges. 

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One fan asked if it was harder to play a young Nambi or an older one. Playing the older version was really tough, replied Maddy, due to the weight he had to gain. “I found out my body was intolerant to sugar and lactose. So I ate cake for three months.” 

Masala Free

Three versions of the movie trailer were shown, English, Tamil and Hindi, along with behind the scenes footage. Madhavan spoke about the lack of item numbers or masala in the movie, which was important to Nambi Narayanan. 

R. Madhavan (left) and Nambi Narayanan (right) on stage for the meet and greet promoting their movie, Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, at the University of Silicon Andhra campus in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

“Madhavan came to me and I knew that he was an engineer, so I have a better chance of talking to somebody who’ll have some sense,” said Narayanan. 

“Plus I can’t dance to save my life,” Madhavan quickly riffed back. There is music, however, he said, with one special piece in particular. Madhavan recomposed the entire Sri Venkateshwara Suprabatham, and made that into an album to “give that out to the world.”

A fan meets R. Madhavan again after 20 years and takes a selfie at the meet and greet promoting the movie, Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, at the University of Silicon Andhra campus in Milpitas, CA. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Suprabatham

Being South Indian, Madhavan grew up chanting or playing the Suprabatham every morning to wake up Lord Venkateshwara. Nambi Narayanan, while growing up in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, may have also practiced this ritual. 

As the lights dimmed, and the audience became quiet, the Bay Area crowd was the first to hear 30 seconds of this new version of the Suprabatham.  “Rocketry: The Nambi Effect” will be released on July 1.

Sree Sripathy

Sree Sripathy is a writer, photographer, artist and disability advocate based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work focuses on the seen and unseen and their relationship to isolation, ability/disability,...