That old Majrooh Sultanpuri lyrics came to mind with a minor alteration while watching Bhabha and Sarabhai build India’s first nuclear bomb—Abb kya ‘missile’ doon main tumhare shabaab ka.
Shabaab (beauty) lies in the eyes of beholder. There are plenty of external beauty in Rocket Boys 2. There are good looking graceful actors and actresses and props that are germane to the era (1960s) that writer-director Abhay Pannu meticulously recreates.
But I am afraid it’s all way to stretched-out. After watching 10 episodes of Rocket Boys less than a year ago, ten more episode seem like 10, or maybe 8, too many.
The saga of Vikram Sarabhai and Homi Bhabha seems never-ending. And history never seemed such a slog. There are many charming moments dotting the stretched-out landscape. I especially liked the closing moment where we see Bhabha and Sarabhai bromancing on the beach and Bhabha quips, “I’m so clever, Vikram, that half of the time I don’t understand what I’m saying.”
Luckily, pseudo-profundity is not this series’ primary crime. Glibness is. The episodes do not seem to have any proper structure. They just seem to run on research material and some imagination. Which is just not enough. Where is the rationale behind all the props? Why for instance is Bhabha seen dancing around his office with Vishwesh Mathur (played by K C Shankar, who has more footage than other pivotal characters) when Mathur is clearly plotting to upturn Bhabha’s nuclear programme.
I was especially interested in Episode 3 where Pandit Nehru (Rajit Kapoor who made a better Gandhi in Benegal’s film than the Nehru in this series) passes away leaving the coast not so clear for his daughter’s ascension to the throne. Mrs Indira Gandhi (played by Charu Shankar who thinks dyeing on that legendary shrub of white hair makes her Mrs G) is portrayed as a power-hungry malleable woman who is roundly ticked off by her personal adviser.
I don’t see Rahul Gandhi binge-watching this series with his friends.
Incidentally Sarabhai calls Bhabha a “grave robber” after Pandit Nehru’s death, for trying to manipulate the grieving Indira to support Bhabha’s nuclear plans.
Everyone has an agenda in Rocket Boys 2, although one is never sure what it is. Besides an emotional constipation wherein the characters bottle up their real feelings for the sake of what they feel to be a larger good, Rocket Boys 2 suffers from discernible budgetry constraints. Crowd scenes, the missile launches and any scene that requires more than three characters on the screen looks tacky.
Every incident is stretched out to the optimum to fill up the episodes. When Mrinalini Sarabhai (Regina Cassandra) dances we have to watch the entire recital. Just because there is space for it! Economy of expression seems to have gone into a coma with the boxoffice prospects of feature films.
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