SonyLIV’s historical drama series ‘Rocket Boys’, traces the lives of two great scientists in Indian history, Homi J. Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai, who played a massive role in transforming the country after Independence in 1947.
In 1940, Vikram Sarabhai (Ishwak Singh) is a student pursuing his masters at Cambridge University. Interested in rocket science, he tries to create a small version of a rocket, but his experiment fails. Considering the looming threat of the Nazis, he opts to leave his masters midway and returns to India.
Homi J. Bhabha (Jim Sarbh) is a professor at Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and head of the Cosmic Rays unit. Upon their first meeting, Sarabhai and Bhabha click, beginning their decades of friendship.
Bhabha finds himself smitten by Pipsy (Saba Azad), while Sarabhai begins a relationship with Mrinalini (Regina Cassandra).
Their decision to replace the UK flag on top of IISc with an Indian flag results in all the donors withdrawing their funding, and Bhabha is forced to leave the institution and shut down the Cosmic Rays unit in order to appease them.
Bhabha tries to get the Tatas to fund his ‘Bhabha Institute of Fundamental Research’, however, they show no interest. He convinces them after giving a passionate monologue. But the name is decided as ‘Tata Institute of Fundamental Research’ (TIFR). Sarabhai starts his Physical Research Laboratory (PRA) in Ahmedabad.
After a rough period following his father’s death, Bhabha is able to resume work at the TIFR, convincing the imminent Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru (Rajir Kapur), to back his plan to provide electricity in all parts of India through atomic energy.
After Independence, he is named as the head of Nehru’s Indian Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), despite the obstacles caused by Raza Mehdi (Dibyendu Bhattacharya), who seeks the position for himself. Mehdi also begins to conspire with British intelligence against Bhabha.
Sarabhai forms Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association (ATIRA) to help the workers, but they are hostile to the idea as they are unable to understand how it can benefit them. Through perseverance, he earns their trust.
Sarabhai has married Mrinalini, however, Bhabha’s hesitance for commitment forces Pipsy to get married to somebody else.
Bhabha is unable to cover solid ground in the three years after his election as the chairperson of AEC, and Mehdi brings this up in parliament. Nehru, unhappy with the progress, gives him a deadline of three months.
Bhabha starts to aggressively work on the reactor, taking help from his friends from abroad. He creates a nuclear reactor inside a swimming pool. However, there’s an issue with it and it cannot power up fully. Bhabha fixes it himself.
Nehru and Mehdi arrive to look at the reactor, and it works fine. Bhabha managed to fix it in the nick of time. Bhabha and Mehdi finally let bygones be bygones and decide to become cordial.
Inspired by a conversation with budding scientist, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (Arjun Radhakrishnan), Sarabhai is inspired to finally pursue his dream of building rockets. He, along with Kalam and Bhabha, pitch the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to Nehru, who, after initial hesitance, approves it.
If you have any doubts regarding the final episode, here’s a breakdown.
Rocket Boys ending explained in detail (Episode 8: A New Dawn)
An eye for an eye?
Bhabha suggests that, considering the use of nuclear weapons across the world, India needs to create its own, as a deterrent, to ensure no country can freely attack it. He suggests this at one of the meetings, but Sarabhai is completely against it.
Bhabha and he get into an argument on what is the correct course of action, as the latter does not believe creating more weapons of destruction will help stop the war. He favours diplomacy. The two fall out and Sarabhai leaves.
Continuing his plan of action, Bhabha is identified during his rendezvous with a Soviet scientist by the British, who grow concerned about how every country is successfully creating atomic weapons, and India is sure to follow.
Nehru is also against the use of weapons, as he believes it will only breed more war. After India’s position against China deteriorated, unrest grew in the country regarding safety, with calls for Nehru to resign.
The nation’s dream
After China’s attack on India, Nehru concedes that perhaps he was incorrect in his decision to reject Bhabha’s suggestions since India wasn’t prepared for the attack.
He approves his request but tells him not to discuss the project for atomic weapons with the entire AEC. Bhabha chooses Vishwesh Mathur (K. C. Shankar) and Mehdi to assist him.
Sarabhai and Kalam call the media to cover their test launch of a rocket in the small village, Thumba. The British media has reservations over India’s capability in sending a rocket to space but Kalam quickly shuts down any concern.
During the launch, there is a glitch with the launcher, preventing it from lifting over 45 degrees. The expert who can fix it is in Ahmedabad. Assessing the gravity of the situation, and the danger, Sarabhai decided to cancel the launch.
Just as he’s about to make the announcement, Bhabha swoops in to prevent him from saying anything. He promises the launch will happen only with a slight delay.
They reassess the situation together. After careful deliberation, another possibility arises. They will have to lift the launcher manually.
A new era beckons
The entire team uses wires to pul the rocket and launcher up bit by bit, finally reaching an adequate position for the launch.
With much anticipation in the crowd of onlookers and media, the launch is initiated. Against all odds, the rocket successful takes off and exits the atmosphere, receiving a roaring reception.
Filled with pride at the achievement, Sarabhai announces to the media that this successful launch is proof that India is at par with the rest of the world.
Bhabha and Sarabhai talk, where the latter concedes as well that his plans for atomic weapons would be the right course of action for the country. With everyone in agreement, Bhabha’s plan can finally be underway.
In a massive twist, it is revealed that Mathur is corroborating with the British against Bhabha, while Mehdi has had a change of heart and is now supporting him. He reveals the plan to assassinate him but Bhabha just laughs it off, replying that all great minds run that risk.