Story: The coordinates of an old satellite from India, Mihira, are lost with the potential for it to wreak havoc with communications worldwide. Astronaut Dev’s ( Varun Tej ) life was turned upside down five years ago and he now teaches science at a government school. He’s brought in to fix the satellite but is that the only reason he agrees to come back?
Review: After directing a film like Ghazi, expectations were high on Sankalp when it came to his space thriller Antariksham , maybe even unreasonably so. While space films are a genre extremely rare in Indian cinema, let alone Telugu, the director must be lauded for even attempting to pull off something that’s no mean feat. But, does his film work? Unfortunately for him and the audience, it only works in bits and pieces.
Dev (Varun Tej) is an astronaut whose whole world revolves around his baby – a moon orbiting satellite called Viprayan – and his girlfriend, a teacher called Parvati ( Lavanya Tripathi ). But an unforeseen incident turns his whole world upside down and he goes incognito for five whole years, choosing instead to teach science at a school in Rameshwaram. But when satellite Mihira is found to have the potential to wreak havoc with communications worldwide and causing debris, he is brought in by his old colleagues Riya ( Aditi Rao Hydari ) and Mohan (Srinivas Avasarala). But what makes a previously unconvinced Dev return to the Indian Space Centre?
Sankalp takes his own sweet time in the first half, bringing us up to date with the events that led up to Dev being brought back to the Indian Science Centre. While there are few scenes that seem to be placed for the sake of it and few others that might be too much information for a layman to follow, the director does a good job of exploring relationship dynamics and even fleshing out his characters well enough for us to care about them when they’re in distress. The issue unfortunately hits when it comes to making the drama in space engaging enough.
Four astronauts Dev, Riya, Karan (Satyadev) and Sanjay (Raja Chembolu) are launched into space via Jatayu and they hit issues mile a minute which seem to resolve pretty conveniently. This is a trope that carries out even through the climax and just when you think Sankalp is going to surprise you, he horribly cops out. Then there’s the problematic cinematic liberty he takes with science and impromptu space missions, taking it too far with the reason why Dev’s even there instead of reining it in hard and fast. Even the rousing speeches about patriotism, unconvincing romantic tracks and emotion heavy family dramas do nothing to convince you that this is a good idea. The only surprise you feel is how and why the film decided to make the switch from a no-frills-affair to super melodramatic in no time.
Unfortunately for Antariksham, the VFX too is plain okay, not leaving as much of an impression as it’s supposed to. What works for the film however are the stupendous sets erected by the team; nailing the minute details. Varun Tej, Lavanya Tripathi, Aditi Rao Hydari, Srinivas Avasarala, Satyadev and Raja Chembolu deliver convincing performances, breathing life into their characters, even when they are at their unreasonable best. Prashanth Vihari does a stunning job with the film’s music, creating the required atmosphere in key scenes that sometimes even the visuals fail to do.
Give this one a chance this weekend for the novelty of it all in Telugu cinema if you can look past the patchy, unrealistic narrative. If not, give it a miss. Mission abort!