A rootedness in what they are passionate about is what makes Ishwak Singh and Jim Sarbh a lot like the two celebrated physicists they play — Vikram Sarabhai and Homi Bhabha, respectively — in the much-acclaimed web show Rocket Boys. With Season 2 of Rocket Boys streaming on Sony LIV, Ishwak and Jim talked to The Telegraph Online about being inspired by their characters and their takeaways from working on the show.
The Telegraph Online: Rocket Boys Season 1 is one of the best web shows of 2022. When you look back, what are your thoughts?
Ishwak Singh: That’s the biggest award. It’s still sinking in. These kinds of things don’t happen in life every day. Season 2 is here, so it’s a surreal experience. I don’t sit back and think of it too much, as it can throw you off. (Smiles) I am excited! The responses were overwhelming on social media and also from people I know personally and the fraternity. It’s a huge encouragement.
Jim Sarbh: It feels good. We made the show with so much love, attention and a desire to try to do our best. So I think if it didn’t resonate with people, it would have been quite heart-breaking.
In terms of accolades and number of offers, was the last year different from the years before?
Ishwak Singh: Ah, you know there’s not a sudden change as I don’t function that way; I stay rooted. My world has changed completely, but the DNA of an actor remains the same. I stick to the basics, go to the sets and work towards my craft. I go with the same motivation and do the same things. What I carry with me is a great sense of satisfaction that undeniably comes with it, when everyone throws their arms open and welcomes you. It’s just a different feeling and I hope to carry it with me.
Jim Sarbh: The truth is that it doesn’t change what you do. We would have still done it if nobody had appreciated it. The way I think about it is that the hard work is done, so we can just hope that people will like it and watch it… but what’s the point if nobody hears it? There needs to be an audience, otherwise the whole industry means nothing.
Ishwak, you worked on a bunch of projects last year but they are yet to release. We saw you last in Rocket Boys Season 1. Is that going to be an advantage for you?
Ishwak Singh: I don’t really think about it because you don’t know how people will react and you have no control over it. But we do get a sense of things from what people like and what resonates with us. The audience wants something believable, true and honest.
Rocket Boys Season 1 gave us an opportunity to revisit Vikram Sarabhai and Homi Bhabha’s achievements and contribution in the country’s initial scientific developments. How’s the story moved forward in Season 2?
Ishwak Singh: People are aware of the marquee events. Needless to say it talks more about human aspirations and about making choices. They had resources, they were qualified, educated, and had money. They had all kinds of connections, and look at what they chose to do! Some people progress in humanitarian or philanthropic directions. Not every man can carry it forward and also pass it on… that’s the biggest achievement. They stayed to build the nation, worked towards science, did what they believed in, and built a brigade of younger generation at home and outside… this is what you see in Season 2. That’s an advancement of what they have achieved and are capable of.
Jim Sarbh: We were such a new country, and these people were striving towards lofty ambitions and goals. Homi Bhabha along with his team started the first nuclear reactor. What a strange day it would have been! Nervous, strange, exhilarated. Feelings of accomplishment, future desires, and criticism of how the whole thing happened. That’s the truth.
Actors sometimes look very far from what they should be feeling now. But the truth is, you are feeling similar to the actual situation. They are already nervous about the scene going well, how the character might be feeling, and how they want the launch to go well…. In Season 2, they are older, so they are a bit more mature and have more experience. They react with the knowledge that they may not have had when they were younger, but the promises of Season 1 will be seen through.
Since you shot most of Season 2 along with Season 1, did things change after the tremendous response to the first season?
Jim Sarbh: We wanted to improve it but 80 per cent of Season 2 was shot along with Season 1, as we had combined the schedules. When we saw the edit, we did try to be where we had left off, because seasons of good shows try to build up, highlight the strengths and try to acknowledge the weaknesses. We did that.
Ishwak Singh: We were honest and we gave everything, so it’s a personal victory right out there. This is a team that makes bold choices. This is a team that doesn’t get unnerved.
Homi Bhabha was a charismatic personality and a patron of art. Jim, how did he inspire you? How much of him have you retained?
Jim Sarbh: If you take inspiration from Homi, then once he is done with the reactor, he has plans for future things. Of course, he loves the benefits, but he is already on to the next thing. I am similar. I prefer moving ahead so that the character doesn’t live in my head continuously. But Homi Bhabha isn’t a bad character to be, so I didn’t mind. If it were some other character, like the one in Neerja, then that would have been a pain to live with for two years. (Smiles) I aspire to have Homi’s level of curiosity about the world and the intensity with which he wants to enjoy his time on earth, to enjoy life, and the relentless pursuit of the things he is curious about. He is unafraid of hard work.
A still from Rocket Boys Season 2 Sony LIV
What else are you excited about?
Jim Sarbh: Made In Heaven will come out this year, so I am excited about how it turns out to be.
Ishwak Singh: I have a show, Adhura, and I have shot two films. Once you do a new show, you get equipped with so many tools that when I go to the next, I am better prepared. Rocket Boys has given me that.