Jim Sarbh, who returns as Dr Homi J Bhabha in the second season of SonyLIV’s Rocket Boys, did not feel any added responsibility trying to bring to life the scientist. In an interview with Hindustan Times, the actor explained that because people didn’t know about Bhabha, he could add a bit of himself in it as well. (Also Read | Rocket Boys season 2 review: An underwhelming return despite a perfect Jim Sarbh)
“Whenever an actor plays a part, it’s always going to be their own take. That’s impossible to avoid. It’s always going to be some version of the actor playing it. I feel that there is the pressure and thought about [the person] you’re portraying somebody who is considered great, considered the father of the nuclear nation,” Jim shared.
More astounding for the actor were the collective achievements of Bhabha and Dr Vikram Sarabhai (Ishwak Singh) who is also featured in the period drama. He said of their real-life counterparts, “There would be moments where we would all sit back and be like, ‘Wow, that is incredible. This guy pulled it off.’
He said he looked at Bhabha’s life accomplishments and legacy as something the scientist tackled one day at a time. Jim explained, “[Homi] tried to do [his] best and solve the problems that were in front of [him]. I feel that we all do the exact same thing. It’s up to other people to decide whether they are great or not. In that moment, you’re just trying to solve the problem.”
Portraying the ‘genius scientist’, Jim worked off writer-director Abhay Pannu’s heavily researched script to get into his shoes. He said, “I do believe that some actors love to do the whole research thing, I prefer to focus my attention on the approach to the scene. So if I’m feeling like the character is not sounding like what I thought about the character, then I will do more research to see if I’m either wrong or right. And then we have to fix things at a script level. But here the script was pretty bang on.”
He worked with Pannu to try to represent how somebody smarter than the two of them would handle things. “I like the idea that really intelligent people don’t take themselves seriously. I think that’s also quite a Parsi trait,” the actor shared.
Like Rocket Boys producer and showrunner Nikkhil Advani, Jim wasn’t that aware of the friendship between Homi and Vikram before he joined the show. He said, “I think the way we characterise Homi Bhabha is that he would probably rather be alone, than in a conversation he’s not enjoying or a friendship he’s not enjoying. He’ll find other people to talk to, he’s going to be fine. That’s a very intimidating character to be around if they just really don’t care about what you think of them.
Jim added, “There are few and far between these kinds of people that you meet on a day to day basis. I definitely have a romantic leaning towards that. Not that I can do it. I definitely need people.”
He and Singh tried to play the scenes as written in the script and reacted over each other’s contradictions. The actor went on to say, “Homi Bhabha is more mercurial and Vikram Sarabhai is more thoughtful but actually I think they have equal and opposite amounts of both in each other. It’s just their means to express it are different. I think Homi Bhabha is also very thoughtful. I think Vikram Sarabhai is also very mercurial.”
Calling Bhabha one of the more demanding but satisfying characters he’s played in his career, Jim also spoke about showing the many little sides to the ‘serious’ scientist. It was important for the makers and him to show even a humorous and playful side of the great man.
The actor also recalled a memorable day on set in season one where Dr Bhabha announces the opening of a nuclear reactor and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru arrives to inaugurate it. He shared, “Atulya comes to call me from my press conference, and I run off with him to find out what’s going on and he’s not telling me and I go into the control room and that whole scene in the control room with Mathur and Atulya and everybody else was a two and a half minute single Steadicam shot. It was so technical and in a small space. There were four people behind the camera and everyone was trying to hit their marks, and it felt exhilarating when we finally pulled it off.”
Jim, who is also in the new film Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway, also added that he was thankful for the support audiences have shown towards the series. “I think the amount of work and love we poured into making it, if it wasn’t appreciated, I think I would have been a little heartbroken,” he concluded.