Sunday, September 6, 2015

TVF Pitchers Review

In a very moving sequence in the first episode of this recent hit web-series by The Viral Fever, an aspiring entrepreneur Navin Bansal (the last name could be a hat-doff to Bansals of 'Flipkart') is on his way to airport to catch a flight to Delhi for his Beijing visa interview. He is half-hearted about this decision and also confused as his ambition to be an entrepreneur was being left behind. The scene is a meta-construction: he is in a taxi whose driver acts as a deus ex machina, of sorts, when he suggests "traffic mein phanse rahoge toh flight pucca miss ho jayegi"-- the traffic in Navin's head is the corporate rat-race while his startup dreams has already taken a flight . The driver takes another route; so does Navin. He goes back to his friends who would co-found his startup. Just moments before, as the driver takes the alternate road, we see a hoarding of '', a print-ad of 'Snapdeal', and a roadside kid at signal selling Walter Issacson's biography of Steve Jobs that has Jobs' iconic photo on the cover... looking straight into the eyes of Navin. We now know what made Navin change his decision at that last-moment. It's a brilliantly effective scene for the scope of this series and to kick it off.

Three episodes later, when Jeetu, a middle-class software engineer at a corporate, is watching TV with his banker dad in a hilariously awkward situation, he points out how almost all the ads are of some or the other websites or apps rather than oil and soap. "They are called startups," he says. He is immediately objected by his father to not even think of a start-up. A debate ensues about how risky working for a startup could be. But who could kill a dream? Hadn't the middle-class India dreamt and taken that risk, there would have been businesses only by Tatas, Birlas or Ambanis. The business culture wouldn't have evolved the way it has. We would have had no inspirational stories around. We would have had no TVF Pitchers. And millions of Internet users wouldn't have been praising it this gloriously. 

How good or bad it is, is a different matter. The fact that something like this got made makes me happy. Don't care even if the show gets somewhat predictable sometimes and follows all the regular tropes of a drama. There's a love story too, but does that love story even qualify as the kind of love-stories we are habituated to see in a drama? The couple (Navin and Shreya) breaks-up at the end. Because, fuck yeah, career first! That's one lesson Indian youths should be taught more prominently than inspiring them to risk their job for a startup.

TVF Pitchers is a product of our culture. And being in this new form called web-series, it is set out to change the medium for consumption of pop-culture by the masses of our country. The Viral Fever was founded with this ambition of being an alternate medium than television and solid content in hand. Arunabh Kumar, the founder who also has a part in the series, wants to lead this change. He even ostentatiously asserts this at the end of almost every episode by lifting the "pitcher" of beer himself. Pitchers is, obviously, not the first one to talk about entrepreneurship in alternate culture or pop-culture though. Sridevi learned and taught us the E-word in 2012, and in the same year we had this sweet little indie-film called Shuttlecock Boys by Hemant Gaba. Mainstream Yash Raj had young characters bitten by the entrepreneurial bug in Band Baaja Baaraat (2010) and Rocket Singh: Salesman Of The Year (2009).

The western television counterpart has their own satire on the global mecca of startups- Silicon Valley by the eponymous show. But the makers of Pitchers have been clear right from the start that their show is more of a drama than comedy. There are instances of exaggerated humor at places to heighten the drama though. Being the champion of Indian parody on the web, this style of humor comes easy to them, and these could be references to their earlier videos... like the jazbaati intern from an early scene; the hostel setup is on the lines of what they did in the parody of Indian 24 series, Aadha 24. But that parodied-dark setup gives Jeetu, the most rational, reasonable and calmer one of the four, the room to vent out his anger suppressed so far by his adamant father and uninspiring corporate job (his corporate office is impeccably created with dull colors). The difference between the genres of the two shows is mainly due to the kind of different ecosystems both have resulted from. In India, almost all the graduates are absorbed into the slavery onslaught by so-called MNCs. And as Navin says in his speech at the conclave, "When at Silicon Valley, an entrepreneur pitches to a venture-capitalist, he is being asked 'What? What is the product?'. In India, we are being asked 'Why? Why entrepreneurship?'" The change is almost here.

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