Review | Rocket Boys 2: Now on, now off target


17 March 2023

The screenplay, peppered with ample doses of patriotism, borrows heavily from lots of hearsay and conspiracy theories

Being ambitious is good. Being over-ambitious can prove to be dangerous. ‘Rocket Boys 2’ falls into the second category. It wants to be many things at the same time.

Primarily it wants to chronicle India’s rise as a nuclear power and what all odds it overcame in this journey. But at the same time, it also wants to be a profiler of the then socio-economic and political environment. Also, every now and then it wants to offer an emotional hook to the viewers so that they stay invested in this over 10-hour series spread over overstretched eight parts. Especially the track of the marital breakdown of Dr Vikram Sarabhai and Mrinalini Sarabhai is overdone, to say the least.

The screenplay, peppered with ample doses of patriotism, borrows heavily from lots of hearsay and conspiracy theories to make the series riveting. Thus we have a considerable amount of time spent on the CIA’s reported involvement in Dr Homi Bhabha’s death in a plane crash, Pt. Nehru discussing his successor only with Dr. Homi and Dr Sarabhai agreeing to work on an atomic bomb only as retribution as he comes to know about the real reason for Homi’s death.

Opening credits have made it clear that characters like Mathur and Raza Mehdi are fictitious and the entire track of the attempt to kill Homi inside the nuclear facility seems childish and ridiculous.

It is this Icarian approach of the makers that keep propelling the main narrative off track. It tries to fly too close to the sun and singes a seamless viewing experience in the process. But like a phoenix, the series rises again in every episode. Due credit must be given to the deft direction of Abhay Pannu that all episodes have something in them that makes the viewer not press the forward button and go to the next episode. Also, worth appreciating is the recreation of India the way it must have been at least five decades ago. The look is real and the feel is surreal.

What stands out here are scenes like the one in which a chaste Hindi-speaking K. Kamaraj admonishes a young Indira Gandhi (an impressive Charu Shankar) to toe the party line, the entire sequence of Pt. Nehru’s dying moments and how India, the Congress party, and the government reacted to it, Dr Vikram Sarabhai’s death, and the moment when the party shows Indira Gandhi her place and makes Yashwantrao Chavan the new home minister. None of these are the scientific sequences for which the viewers are here. The last two episodes are dedicated to the Pokhran test but fail to give any adrenaline rush as it follows the overdone pattern of how a team of dedicated scientists overcomes last-minute glitches to emerge triumph.

As was in the first season, in the second one too though the graph of the protagonists significantly ages, the actors on the screen stay young. Besides a few greys in Jim Sarbh’s hair, nothing much.

Jim and Ishwak Singh reprise their roles as Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai and neither disappoint nor add anything.

Regina Cassandra does a brilliant job of portraying an eternally brooding Mrinalini. But why is she always sporting a shawl even though most of the time she is in Ahmedabad remains a question.

With the death of both the protagonists in this season, from rocket boys the mantle has been shifted to rocket boy, Dr A.P. J. Abdul Kalam.

Just like a rocket or missile the series sometimes goes off tangent and then quickly gathers itself to get back into orbit. You have already seen its launch in the first season, and you can track its further trajectory again on SonyLiv.

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