By Shweta Parande
The second season of the award-winning Sony Liv Originals web series Rocket Boys was released on March 16, 2023, and it is making waves on the OTT platform. If the first season was intriguing and well made, Rocket Boys 2 is even more riveting and inspiring. Based on the life of the founding fathers of India’s nuclear and space programme, the scientists Dr. Homi Bhabha and Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Rocket Boys tells the story of their life and how they took India to great heights in the early post-independence era.
Story and Plot
The story of Rocket Boys 2 (by Abhay Koranne) continues from season 1, where the initial journey of Dr. Homi Bhabha (Jim Sarbh) and Dr. Vikram Sarabhai (Ishwak Singh) and the challenges they faced were shown, as they became established as India’s foremost scientific minds. In the second season’s plot, there are more challenges, including wars and insider spies.
Bhabha struggles despite the support of Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (Rajit Kapur). After multiple attacks on the country by the enemy, Bhabha is finally able to convince the PM to make India a nuclear state. But he has to deal with hidden enemies – internal competition, plus the interference and surveillance of the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Homi fights all this with a non-existent personal life and a collapse of his relationship with Pipsy aka Parvana Irani (a terrific Saba Azad who plays the real life Phiroza Wadia).
Similar ups and downs have been there in Sarabhai’s life, with more successes and the opening of many institutions. But he is emotionally divided between his beautiful and talented wife Mrinalini Sarabhai (Regina Cassandra) and his close associate Kamla Chowdhry (Neha Chauhan).
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India itself is finding its footing after Independence in 1947, with Nehru and later Lal Bahadur Shastri as PM. After Shastri’s suspicious death in Tashkent, USSR, the daughter of Nehru, Indira Gandhi (Charu Shankar) takes over as India’s first woman Prime Minister. First behaving like a rookie, Gandhi soon comes into her own and shows her iron-willed side to make Pokhran happen in 1974.
How the two Rocket Boys along with Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam (Arjun Radhakrishnan) and their associates navigate the scientific challenges, and the national and international politics, and the politics within the scientific institutions of India, forms the story of the web series, which is partly fictionalised while maintaining the high points of the real-life incidents.
Rocket Boys 2 presents a compelling finale to the two-decade old struggle of a newly independent India to build its science and space programme, while also trying to build a new nation, industrial self-reliance, technology, education and healthcare.
Performances and Treatment
Nikhil Advani and Abhay Pannu have created, written and directed an engaging, thrilling yet sensitive series to tell the story that needed to be told. It is a clean series, fit for family viewing and, in fact, good for children. Politically, it does not really take sides. However, it would have been interesting to see if the Opposition during those years shown had a view on India’s scientific ambition, and whether they had a scientific temper at all.
Rocket Boys the web series is a fitting tribute to the Golden Boys of Indian Science – Bhabha and Sarabhai. Jim Sarbh delivers one of the best performances of his career yet! It is his show all the way. Sarbh’s witty and wise act is ably balanced by Ishwak Singh’s gentle, naive act.
However, the series does not ignore its women. Each female character in both seasons has been shown to be strong and with a distinct personality, whether it’s the love interest and wife, mother, daughter, associate, female photographer, or the PM of the country. Regina Cassandra and Saba Azad’s act makes the show more enriching, and so does the other female characters’.
The music by Achint Thakkar, the costumes by Uma Biju and the production design by Meghna Gandhi made an impression from the first season itself and even won awards. The editing by Maahir Zaveri and the cinematography by Harshvir Oberai continues to keep your interest alive in the series.
One thing that could have been made more visible is the aging of the characters. For example, Sarabhai looks like the brother of his grown-up daughter Mallika rather than a dad. Mannerisms and a slightly more greying or loss of hair would’ve helped. The aging aspect is noticed for all characters, who look almost the same as themselves 20 years ago. This could have been corrected.
Otherwise, the series works really well in terms of thrill and emotion. The mixing of the old and the real and certain shots in black and white add to the sepia-toned feel. The story ends but one feels like there was more to be told and therefore deserves another season!
Rocket Boys works with the audience because it comes across as good, well-thought out, complete storytelling and not a documentary. Like we said, a fitting tribute to Dr. Homi Bhabha and Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, each of whom deserves a biopic or a series of their own.