Siddharth Roy Kapur says Rocket Boys is a rare show that both educates and entertains: 'It captured the imagination'
Producer Siddharth Roy Kapur, in an interview with Hindustan Times, speaks about the historical drama Rocket Boys and how it has captured the imaginations of audiences since its release in February 2022. The second season will be released later this month.
Producer Siddharth Roy Kapur launched his own production banner in 2017. Since then Roy Kapur Films has back films that have travelled to the biggest film festivals, been shortlisted at the Oscars and produced web series that have earned critical acclaim. Also read: Jim Sarbh, Ishwak Singh prepare for India's future with grand plans. Watch Rocket Boys 2 trailer
The production house has three films releasing 2023 along with an international co-production of The Anarchy, based on William Dalrymple's bestseller about the rise of the East India Company. But, up next for the producer is the release of season two of Rocket Boys on SonyLIV on March 16. Based on the lives of scientists Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai, Siddharth teased the upcoming season, stating, “You've got their lives and their loves and their frailties and their vulnerabilities together with what's happening on the macro scale. [There's] a lot of thrill, a lot of intrigue, a very exciting and very intense season.”
In an interview with Hindustan Times, the producer spoke about the ambitious scale of the period drama which filmed two seasons together, the detail that went into it and why he thinks a coming golden age for Indian entertainment is on the horizon. Excerpts below:
Rocket Boys is the second series that your production house has made, what made you decide to come on board the project?
Actually Rocket Boys was a concept that was brought to us by a young writer called Abhay Korane. He approached us with the idea to make a show on the relationship between Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. Just the fact that such a compelling story had not been told really got us excited with the idea of making it. Abhay had really brought to the fore, the relationship between the two men, the personal and the professional equation that they shared which is something that very few people knew about. We've all heard of the two men in their individual capacities. But what Abhay Korane was able to do was create such a compelling narrative of how their lives intertwined. We then approached Nikkhil Advani who we wanted to work with us creatively on the show and he was equally excited and said that he would love to come on board. And that's where the journey began.
Since its release, the show has really connected with audiences. Were you expecting this or did their response surprise you?
The reaction that the show garnered, both from India as well as from around the world, just exceeded our expectations completely. I think what really worked for it is that it was a clutter breaker, in that, no one has really made a show that talks about two scientists and their lives before this. But it was also very inspiring for people to see the architects of modern India at a point of time when they themselves were in their 20s and 30s, young men setting out in life, with this fledgling new nation that they felt so much patriotism for, and wanting to build a legacy that would take forward the narrative of their own lives as well as of the nation is what really excited people. It captured the imagination and we're just so proud and happy to be able to bring people something like this which both educates and as well as entertains. It's very rare to be able to do both things.
How long has the show been in development from when you first heard the story to when you started production?
It started in 2017. Notwithstanding two years of COVID in between, it takes time to write a show like this and we wrote both seasons together. We wrote 16 episodes out and that's a lot of research and long hours [for] Abhay Pannu and the writing team, including Kausar Munir. [They] really put in so much effort to be able to write out those 16 episodes so we could shoot the seasons together.
The scope of the show as a historical drama about science is quite grand. Did you have concerns over the budget during the making of the show?
When you embark on an enterprise as audacious and as ambitious as this one, you've got to be very mindful of your budget. Props to the team at SonyLIV for being so generous with us, but at the same time, you've got an exacting team of technicians and professionals who want to get everything just right as they should, and that has to counterbalance with having to make some compromises when it comes to keeping your eye on the budgets. It's an art form to balance the two. I think the production team at Emmay [Entertainment] really managed to do that. It was definitely something where we knew that we had to get the period just right, all the detailing just right if the show was going to be able to stand on its own. We're very proud that we managed to do that.
Shooting two seasons back-to-back, not many Indian productions have done that. How did that happen?
That again was something the SonyLIV team was very supportive of from the start. They were aware that this was an ambitious show, it would not be cheap to create. Production-wise, it just makes so much more sense to be able to go to the same location and complete all the work you have there at one go, rather than going back for another schedule in another season. But it does take a very forward-looking and visionary streaming platform to give you the wings to be able to fly and do that. Not everyone has got the confidence to be able to greenlight two seasons at one go.
A lot of big stars are now coming on to headline OTT projects now. Do you see this shift as temporary or is the new normal going forward?
I believe it is the new normal going forward and I'm really happy about that because why should artistes be constrained by formats. You have wonderful actors today in the West also who are doing such incredible work in the TV space. There are certain stories that lend themselves to the serialisation format that are not best told for cinema. Just as an artiste being able to play these incredibly layered complex characters that live and breathe across multiple hours of content, I think is very rewarding for actors as well. These are now being produced at the very highest level when it comes to the quality so it's a great time to be an artiste where you've got the ability to be able to function across multiple formats and do great work that is best able to use your artistic talents.
Do you see it as sort of challenging the theatrical format?
I believe that technology has to be allowed to take you wherever it takes you and there's no point fighting it, you might as well embrace it. Embrace the folly for what it is and be able to creatively work with it and improve your own storytelling in the best way possible. I think there's no point seeing one in competition to the other because as the advent of technology over the last century has shown us, you've had silent movies becoming talkies. You had radio, television and the internet. You've had so many different formats of content be introduced but then they end up coexisting with the others. It's just about finding great stories as you want to tell and telling them in the format they are best suited for. As people in the content creation business, we should embrace all formats and make sure we just tell great stories.
What do you see ahead for the future of Indian OTT in the next two-three years?
I do believe the next few years are going to be a golden age for streaming and cinematic entertainment from India. This might be part wishful thinking but I think it's true. The last decade was really the Korean decade when it came to pop culture around the world - their music, their movies, their TV, their food - all seems to have been celebrated really extensively. I think the next decade is going to be India's decade. Streaming platforms have given us the opportunity to be able to have our content now available at the flick of a switch to a 190 plus countries around the world on a day and day basis. I think that gives us the level playing field that we needed all this time to be able to have our content reach out to the world. I think the world is our oyster in that sense. Now it's all on us as the creative fraternity to really up our game and make sure that we are being able to tell our stories around the world because we can't complain about technology and about distribution anymore. It's all there.