S Nambi Narayanan has agreed to making a movie based on his personal story which involves a fabricated spy scandal closely bordering on being a sex scandal, a wide set of self centred and ambitious politicians and police officers and a dented career of one of the leading scientists of his time.
The movie titled 'Witch Hunt' would be directed by popular Hindi/Marathi actor-director Ananth Mahadevan and would be scripted by journalist-writer C P Surendran. 20th Century Fox is rumoured to produce this big-budget movie and the shooting is expected to begin early next year.
The announcement was made by C P Surendran, who was in the city to attend the Kovalam Literary Fest, which concluded on Sunday.
Mohanlal is to be cast in the lead role of the scientist.
In 1992, S Nambi Narayanan, a senior official in ISRO and was involved in the pioneering work of developing cryogenic based fuel engines that were to power the satellite launch vehicles being developed under APJ Abdul Kalam. In an entirely unrelated incident, a Maldivian ex-intelligence officer, Mariam Razeeda, was arrested in Trivandrum for overstaying her visa permit. Still maintaining contacts with some of her 'old friends', Mariam's personal dairy revealed information about a particular political group, which opposed the ruling government of Maldives.
A rumour spread linking top ISRO scientist with Maldivian police intelligence officers accused of spying on secret reports of ISRO. The rumour gained national attention and the Intelligence Bureau stepped in. The media pounced upon the unsubstantiated scoops that followed, precipitating the 'scandal of the decade', during the 90s.
S Nambi Narayanan, along with six others was arrested on charges of espionage. He was in jail for 50 days. Later he said that he was physically and mentally tortured in the jail to testify against his immediate superiors. The story linking a top ISRO scientist and a Maldivian woman flooded the markets with all possible fabrications made to suit a whole variety of story angles.
The CBI found the entire case baseless upon investigation and dismissed it in May 1996, followed by the Supreme Court of India in 1998. In 2001 the National Human Rights Commission had ordered the Kerala State Government to pay Rs. 1Cr as compensation to Nambi Narayanan. In September 2012, the Kerala High Court ordered the government to pay Rs.10 lakhs to him on grounds of an appeal from NHRC.
Nambi Narayanan with C P Surendran
The Indian space program was in a phase of rapid development in the 1990s, partly because of the availability of advanced technology from Russia at a far more reasonable price than USA or France. The prospect of India developing the technology of cryogenic based fuel engines with the aid of Russia would have meant the loss of huge contracts for many national agencies, and therefore the international pressure to stall India's space program in any manner possible was also huge.
'Witch Hunt' is slated to be shot in foreign locales including the European Space Agency and NASA. Other than 20th Century Fox, Sahara has also shown interest in funding the movie. C P Surendran, the novelist and poet who would be scripting for a movie for the first time through 'Witch Hunt', said that the movie would focus around how a leading scientist of the nation gets trapped in a spy-sex scandal, webbed primarily by police officers looking for promotion and politicians lobbying for power.
“It is also equally about showcasing how our society works, how we prefer myths to history and fiction to facts. Everybody is onto fabrication and then this fabrication eventually takes over in place of reality,” he said.