Last season, we knew that fictitious scientist Raza Mehdi (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) was the red herring. The real traitor in bed with the CIA was Mathur (KC Shankar). And the men in Langley (headquarters of the CIA) would murder to stop India from going nuclear.
We also knew that Homi Bhabha (Jim Sarbh) and Vikram Sarabhai (Ishwak Singh), two scientific geniuses from privileged families, had easy access to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (Rajit Kapur) who espoused atma nirbharta (self-reliance) for India’s scientific strides.
It would help to visit Season 1 before watching the eight fresh episodes that are more or less an extension of the same stories.
Raza is victimised, ostracised.
Mathur, in villain style, continues to be the CIA’s stooge and mole in Homi Bhabha’s office that’s otherwise throbbing with scientific temperament and exciting plans to go atomic in India’s quest for an equal place at the global table.
The spy vs spy (sometimes bordering on the filmi) goes on as Raza tries to prove not only his innocence but also warn Homi of the conspiracy being brewed by Mathur and his masters.
Alongside is the politics of the Indian National Congress, the only national party in power in the 60s and 70s, as Nehru’s successor is picked with Morarji Desai, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Krishna Menon, Kamaraj and Indira playing their roles.
Contrary to Vivek Agnihotri’s The Tashkent Files, another interesting perspective to the mystery death of Lal Bahadur Shastri is explored.
And the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty takes off with the same intrigue and intensity as India’s space programme.
Homi and Vikram are on parallel tracks. One wants the bomb that the CIA will not allow. The other wants rockets and satellites with American aid.
Between show creator Nikkhil Advani and director Abhay Pannu, they pack eight episodes with stories of power shifts in the PMO, of the brains that keep India’s nuclear and space programmes ticking despite setbacks, of Homi’s and Vikram’s personal lives and of the big bad CIA that always lurking around ominously.
The baton is passed on and there’s always someone fit enough to take it and run with it. In the PMO, Nehru died, Shastri died, Indira took it on. In the laboratories, Homi died, Sarabhai died, Ramanna and Abdul Kalam took it on. Legends make legacies live on. India got its TV satellites, Pokhran happened. The names change, the show goes on, fact and fiction blurring.
If there is anything to crib about, it is only that the freshness of the first season – the sparkling performances, the re-creation of the 60s, the music that warns of impending doom before rising again – is no longer fascinatingly new. (Do read the review of the 1st season of Rocket Boys on Lehren.com for all the credits.) It’s a world you were introduced to last year, a story you read in 2022. But more chapters have been added. Some, like Pokhran, are a repeat of what’s already been successfully told by other filmmakers. But, as a hat tip to Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, Raja Ramanna, Abdul Kalam and all the ‘boys’ who propelled India’s rise as a power, it’s worth a watch.
Watch the trailer of Rocket Boys Season 2:
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