Retracing the accomplishments of India's greatest scientists with Rocket Boys, producer Nikkhil Advani on how he procured danseuse Mallika's permission to bring father Vikram Sarabhai's life to screen.
Homi J Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai and APJ Abdul Kalam
Pulling off space dramas is no mean feat, given the exorbitant budget the subject demands. So, the entertainment industry was in for a surprise when Siddharth Roy Kapur and Nikkhil Advani announced their passion project, Rocket Boys. The Sony Liv series will offer a dramatised retelling of the lives of India’s brightest scientists, Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai and APJ Abdul Kalam, studying their immense contribution in the fields of nuclear physics and space research.
Procuring necessary permissions for the story could have posed a difficulty, but Advani says the team had initiated talks with the Sarabhai and Bhabha families by late 2019. “The Sarabhai family is completely on board. The script was shared with them at an early stage. We have spoken to the family of Homi Bhabha, and they are keen to see an authentic story being made on the great scientists.” The unit kicked off the Abhay Pannu-directed project in Jaipur last month, with Ishwak Singh of Paatal Lok fame playing Vikram Sarabhai. The late scientist’s daughter Mallika Sarabhai has graciously agreed to help them. “Mallika Sarabhai is currently on the set, choreographing the dance sequences that her mother [Mrinalini Sarabhai] performed in 1950. Her son is one of the main dancers in the act.”
Nikkhil Advani and Mallika Sarabhai
Getting down to brass tacks, Advani agrees that the human drama is one of Emmay Entertainment’s most ambitious projects. However, he is confident of doing justice to the subject on “limited funds”. “We have previously pulled off Airlift  on a smaller budget than expected. Big stories can be told on the right budget if the planning is [thorough]. Abhay has sent some footage to me; it is spectacular.” At the moment, the producer is unwilling to reveal who has stepped into the shoes of Bhabha and Kalam. Instead, all he divulges is that the story of the three great minds will have them traversing India and the UK. “It will be a gruelling 150-day schedule. The show will be shot across Mumbai, Pune, Rajasthan, Mussoorie, Cambridge and London. We will attempt the last two cities post April, when the lockdown in the UK is hopefully lifted.”