In the SonyLIV miniseries JL 50, there are two missing planes. One aircraft, bearing important government delegates, has actually been hijacked. The other crashed a week ago – only, it went off the radar in 1984.

What has flight JL 50- been up to for so long? Its two survivors include the pilot Bihu (Ritika Anand), who hasn’t aged a day. A clue into the plane’s whereabouts and its sudden reappearance is provided in the first episode itself by a quantum physics professor who holds forth on the mysteries of time. However, Central Bureau of Investigation officer Shantanu (Abhay Deol) has three more episodes to learn the astounding truth.

There is no shortage of ambition from writer and director Shailendra Vyas. He packs many ideas into a very lean run-time: an alternative version of history, time travel, science fiction and radical politics in Bengal.

The hijackers of the first plane turn out to be agitators for an independent Bengal. Bengali individuals similarly express their dissatisfaction with the system, lashing out at what they see as short-sightedness and cowardice.

Pankaj Kapur in JL 50 (2020). Courtesy SonyLIV.

The cast include Rajesh Sharma as Gaurango, Shantanu’s assistant, and Piyush Mishra as Biswajit, another physics professor who now appears to have lost his sanity. Although there isn’t much room for the characters to leave a mark, Rajesh Sharma does his very best.

Pankaj Kapur, who played a similarly put-upon scientist in Tapan Sinha’s Ek Doctor Ki Maut, is cleverly cast as Das, the physics professor with unusual ideas about the past, the present and the future. Abhay Deol does a fine job pouring scorn on Das’s fancies. Shantanu’s resting face in much of the series helps keep a degree of scepticism afloat. However, the series, which appears to be a film chopped up into four episodes of roughly 35 minutes each, is too underdeveloped and rushed to allow Shantanu’s doubts to amount to very much.