An alleged traitor scientist in both Om and Rocketry! Will the same release date affect their prospects?

It is bizarre as to how Indian cinema tends to release films having a common aspect on the same day.

Jackie Shroff (l) in Rashtra Kavach Om. R. Madhavan (R) in Rocketry: The Nambi Effect

By Mayur Lookhar

There are many things unique to Indian cinema. Among them is how at times, two or more films having a common aspect, tend to release on the same day or close to each other.

This Friday [1 July], we have two films that have something similar to them. There’s Aditya Roy Kapur-starrer Rashtra Kavach Om [2022], and there is actor R. Madhavan’s maiden directorial Rocketry: The Nambi Effect [2022]. The first is an out and out action masala entertainer, the other a biographical film on a controversial former scientist and aerospace engineer S. Nambi Narayanan. One is fiction, the other a biographical film. So, what is common to them?

Well, if you have seen the trailer of the two films, you will realise that both films have a scientist who is accused of being a traitor. The scientist in Rashtra Kavach Om is not the leading man Aditya Roy Kapur, but Jackie Shroff. Om loses his memory in a combat. The only thing that he recalls is the face of Dev [Shroff] who he thinks is his biological father. Dev was once a top nuclear scientist but later he goes missing or probably gets kidnapped. The nation is divided over whether Dev is a patriot or a traitor, as alleged in the film. Rashtra Kavach Om sees the titular character Om [Roy Kapur] trying to find his father, battle his inner demons, amnesia and get to the bottom of the truth around his father.

Rocketry is not as complicated. The film tells the tale of S. Nambi Narayanan, former scientist, aerospace engineer at ISRO [Indian Space Research Organization] who was accused in the famous ISRO spy scandal of 1994. He was arrested and jailed for 50 days. It took about four years for top courts to exonerate him in the scandal. While the allegations were prroven false, the damage done to his reputation and career was irreparable. It took a further 20 years for Narayanan to regain his dignity when the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government conferred him with the Padma Bhushan award in 2019.

Although fiction, but Rashtra Kavach Om has a son trying to find the truth about his tainted scientist father. We presume that eventually, Dev will turn out to be an innocent man. Rocketry’s story is self explanatory with the trilingual [Tamil, Hindi, English] film also releasing on the same day. And this is not new to Indian cinema, particularly Bollywood.

It is well documented how we’ve had two films on a iconic martyr Bhagat Singh releasing on the same day – 7 June, 2002. One was Ajay Devgn’s The Legend of Bhagat Singh , the other was Bobby Deol-starrer 23 March 1931: Shaheed. The former clicked while the latter didn’t.

If not on the same day, then two films with a common subject have released close to each other. YRF’S Qaidi Band [2017] and Viacom18’s Lucknow Central [2017] were inspired by Tihar’s jail musician inmates. The latter released barely few weeks after the former. Both films tanked.

2017 also saw Vidya Balan-starrer feminist period film Begum Jaan coming on 14 April. Though two totally different stories, a week later, we had Sonakshi Sinha’s Noor, another feminist drama. Also releasing on the same day [21 April] was Raveena Tandon’s Maatr, a story about a mother [Raveena] avenging two rapes. Both mother and daughter were raped on the same night by the Chief Minister’s son, with the daughter not surviving the tragedy. That April felt like a month for feminist films. Couple of months later, we had Sridevi’s Mom, again based on a mother avenging the rape of her daughter. The long gap certainly worked in Mom’s favour as the film received critical acclaim and also fared well at the box office.

Though Rashtra Kavach Om and Rocketry are two different films, but the tainted scientist aspect cannot be discounted. It begs the question, does it makes sense to release two films having a common thread on the same day? Is it just coincidence?

Film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi says, “I think it is just that these films are made around the same time. Also, films on similar subjects can be told in a different way that appeals to different kind of audiences. As long that can be done it is fine. If you talk about these two films, both involving a scientist – one is about a real life person, the other is an action masala film meant for tier 2, tier 3 audiences.”

He adds, “I’m sure 99.99 % of people who are interested in watching Rocketry, will not be interested in watching Om, and vice versa. Both cater to very different kind of audiences. Rashtra Kavach Om will appeal to tier 2, tier 3, single screen audiences. Whereas the other one’s business will be primarily be driven by urban India. When I say urban, I don’t mean geographically, but in terms of mindsets and psychographics. That is the bifurcation between these two films and I’m sure both will complement each other.”

Fair point, but the question remains, who takes a call to release such films on the same day? Don’t the film exhibitors discuss about the similarities?

“It is broadly a call taken by the respective producers. I’m pretty sure the trailer of Rocketry came out much later after the trailer of Om. I’m 99.99 % sure that Madhavan had no idea about Om having a tainted scientist too. This scientist angle that overlaps between the two will not play too much of a role. I don’t think audience of Rocketry will care much about Om, and vice versa.”

Save for the odd common aspect, the two films definitely look poles apart from each and have a different target audience. We wish nothing but the best for both these films.

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