The specialty of the two seasons of Rocket Boys, directed by Abhay Pannu, and co-created with Nikhil Advani, is the absorbing way in which it goes through historical events and how terrific visual language aids that narrative in holding the excitement of the viewer. With the events becoming bigger and the task becoming even more historic, Rocket Boys 2 sustains the quality it showed in the first season and delivers a perfect blend of fact and fiction.
Post the events in Rocket Boys Season 1, we see how Homi J Bhabha was moving ahead with his atomic research while Vikram Sarabhai focused more on his space research. The Americans closely followed Bhabha’s moves using Mathur, the mole. Rocket Boys 2 ultimately focuses on what led to India’s decision to become a nuclear power and how these two visionaries were crucial in making India achieve that mission.
Generally, the fictionalization of actual events is dramatized chiefly to create a compelling narrative that holds the viewer’s interest. But the conviction part is pretty low most of the time. The narrative’s predictability and template nature makes those creations look like dull and inaccurate documentation. The development of the script of Rocket Boys 2 that expands bullet points events in history and creates a link through certain emotional layers was great to watch. When Mathur tried to put Raza in a bad light in front of Vikram, that strategy worked mainly because of the personal hassle through which Vikram was going through. This clever way of infusing a personal story into a concept about India’s growth gives Rocket Boys 2 much more depth.
They say half the job is done when you cast the perfect guy. Jim Sarbh, as Homi J Bhabha, has the flamboyance and irreverence the character demands. There are moments he shows the character’s vulnerability less theatrically. Ishwak Singh has the grace and tenderness one would anticipate in a man who prefers peace over combat. It was nice to see him portray the character’s aging convincingly, even though the makers weren’t trying to give him wrinkles for the old man look. Regina Cassandra, as Mrinalini Sarabhai, gets more space as the dynamic has changed in her relationship with her husband. KS Shankar as Mathur and Dibyendu Bhattacharya as Raza are the filmiest characters in the series, and their performances have that slightly cinematic tone.
The new entry to the series is Charu Shanker as Indira Gandhi. She portrayed Indira Gandhi’s transition from being an uncertain leader to a strong woman with great conviction. The way the first season ended, I hoped there would be more emphasis on Abdul Kalam’s character. But since the focus was on Pokhran and what led to it, Kalam was largely one among the crowd. Having said that, in the final episodes and in combination scene with Ishwak Singh, Arjun Radhakrishnan made sure that the passion and dedication of APJ Abdul Kalam came across as genuine. Namit Das, Rahul Dev Shetty, Saba Azad, etc., are the other major names on the long list of actors.
Abhay Pannu is clear about to which extent he should dramatize a scene. The dialogues co-written by Kausar Munir have the flavor of vintage Hindi cinema. But it never becomes a series of rhyming lines. The cinematography of Harshvir Oberai is exquisite in the way the scenes are composed. Even a steady cam shot in a crowded place has a meticulously staged feel. Since they had creative liberty, they used elements like rain, sand storm, etc., to enhance the drama in those moments. The editing, I believe, has happened on a script level, and the way certain thrilling moments are given these parallel tracks is terrific. The background score has a signature, giving the audience a subtle cue.
Rocket Boys 2 is basically a history class from a teacher who narrates it compellingly without a second of boredom. I am not a history geek, but the storytelling was so captivating that I found myself doing a small Wikipedia research on my own about the various events and almost all real characters. At the very end of the series, there is this conversation between Vikram and Homi, where Homi mocks Vikram for communicating in convoluted sentences. That scene somewhere encapsulates what kind of treatment a genre like this needs now; convoluted, factual, and a lot of heart.
Rocket Boys 2 is basically a history class from a teacher who narrates it compellingly without a second of boredom.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended