Rocket Boys Season 2 ‘Sony Liv’ Review: Sony Liv is back with the second installment of one of its successful ventures, “Rocket Boys.” Created by Nikhil Advani and written and directed by Abhay Pannu, “Rocket Boys” has the two pioneering Indian physicists, Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha and Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, form a dynamic duo of contrasting personalities. From the ingeniously crafted opening title design to the dramatic highs of the story, this dichotomy has been always been highlighted. The friendship forged by overcoming this contrast faces multiple challenges as “Rocket Boys” traverses through the early days of post-independence India.
Season one saw Vikram Sarabhai (Ishwak Singh) and Homi Bhabha (Jim Sarbh) at opposing ends when it came to the decision to make an atomic bomb. The lives of these titular Rocket Boys have been the primary focus of season one. Their perpetual pursuits of scientific excellence were interspersed with moments of romance and politics. The post-independence Indian struggle against internal divisions and external pressure was in the background while these two were venturing into their respective journeys. The politics of that time did not come to the forefront till the very end of last season.
In Season two, geopolitical intricacies upended scientific inquisitiveness. Furthermore, politics took over the biopic-ish nature of the series. Compared to season one, “Rocket Boys” in season two becomes something like a John le Carre story. The espionage part of it becomes as important as Homi and Vikram’s quests. This might upset some of the puritan fans, but it is evident that Pannu incorporates this “Political Thriller” part to create even greater drama. And, of course, because there was scope to incorporate this.
*Contains spoilers below.
But if you know your Indian history, you would already know this*
In this season, Our ‘Rocket Boys’ have fewer scientific challenges to conquer, but they have ideological and leadership challenges thrown at them. Season one had them struggle in their romantic life as well. Pipsy (Saba Azad) marrying someone else throws Homi into a temporary spiral of depression. Conversely, Vikram got involved in an extra-marital affair with Kamla (Neha Chauhan). Flinging his marriage with Mrinalini (Regina Cassandra) into the edge of the precipice. With Season two, Homi and Vikram find themselves at the sharp end of world politics especially Homi.
Season two builds on what season one has hinted. America, via the usual CIA route, keeps tabs on the activities of India’s pursuit of nuclear arming. In the climactic twist of the past season, Homi’s aide, Vishwesh Mathur (K.C. Shankar), was revealed to be the mole. He and his handler, Prosenjit Dey (Namit Das), continues to plot against Homi’s relentless pursuit of making an atomic bomb. Homi’s death has been one of the key targets for them.
Death is natural. And for this second season, “Rocket Boys” had plenty of deaths to handle. Pannu astutely put the important ones as late as possible. Even if you did not brush your history, chances are you are aware of Homi Bhabha’s suspicious plane crash death. Obviously, Pannu utilizes this common knowledge to build plenty of suspenseful moments where you would anticipate “if this is the moment.” With Nehru’s (Rajit Kapur) death, the Indian political landscape started to change. The political turmoil is deftly blended with the central plot featuring Homi and Vikram.
It is not easy to make your audience root for nuclear arming. It is a tricky path to tread when you know that you have your satisfying ending as the literal atomic bomb explosion. In fact, Pannu’s script manages to navigate that path with enough understanding to avoid going overboard with jingoistic tendencies. “Rocket Boys” toes the line between peace and war with relative neutrality.
Once again, Jim Sarbh portrays Bhabha as enigmatic as possible. It is understandable why the story pushes Bhabha’s death as late as possible. Moreover, you would not want too many episodes without Jim Sarbh in it. Ishwak Singh’s restrained Sarabhai has been the perfect foil to Sarbh’s Bhabha. The duo manages to highlight the aforementioned dichotomy between the two Rocket Boys with relative ease. Both Saba Azad and Regina Cassandra had more scope this season, and they fully utilized that.
The supporting cast has been equally good. Once again, as I mentioned in my review of the first season, Dibyendu Bhattacharya as Raza Mehdi shines the brightest. This time, Namit Das, as the shrewd CIA handler, Dey, also gets more chances to show his mettle. K.C. Shankar has been consistently good throughout the series.
Pannu’s direction, Harshvir Oberai’s cinematography, and Maahir Zaveri’s editing have made “Rocket Boys” a fairly even blend of facts and fiction. The blend with actual footage of India’s many milestones is one of the key features of this series, along with the beautifully designed opening title sequences and the theme song. Another example is the homage to Doordarshan via the series’ signature style of opening credits in the seventh episode.