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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Kota Factory (TV Series 2019– )

Kota Factory (TV Series 2019– ) 

Tags: Comedy, Drama | TV Series (2019– )
Creator: Saurabh Khanna
Stars: Mayur More, Ranjan Raj, Revathi Pillai
Country: India
Language: Hindi
Release Date: 16 April 2019

Kota Factory Season 1 Kota Factory captures the life of IIT and Medical exam aspirants as they face both Competition and Life

'Kota Factory' Fails to Critique the Culture of IIT Coaching Institutes
In many parts, TVF's web series feels like a lived-in experience but does not critique the isolation of children from their childhoods.

'Kota Factory' Fails to Critique the Culture of IIT Coaching Institutes
Kota Factory. Credit: TVF

At the age of 15, numerous Indian students realize an unshakeable truth about their lives: that their worth depends on cracking the IIT Joint Entrance Exam. Nearly a million of them compete for it every year and around 10,000 make it, giving the exam the glow of a middle-class halo. Tens of thousands of applicants come to Kota every year, a city in Rajasthan, where coaching institutes for the IITs have sprung up like oases in a desert.

The Kota craze is nearly two decades old, spawning two years of the scramble, sacrifice, and hope, inspiring a cult-like devotion to a cause, a God-like reverence for select authors: I.E. Irodov (physics), Solomons and Fryhle (organic chemistry), S.L. Loney (coordinate geometry). This is a uniquely Indian story – replete with an inherent three-act structure – breathing with the young delights of a Bildungsroman, and yet popular Hindi cinema has remained indifferent to it. The closest it got, even to India’s obsession with engineering, was 3 Idiots (2009) – a film that had pop philosophy, tired jokes, and misleading assertions – making its source, the novel Five Point Someone, a minor masterpiece in comparison.

So, in such a cultural climate, The Viral Fever (TVF)’s Kota Factory, a web series created and directed by Saurabh Khanna, promises to plug a crucial narrative gap. Lakhs of Indian teenagers didn’t just hit puberty and grow up – many lost a part of themselves in the dusty piles of coaching manuals, becoming faceless members of an army branded failure at the age of 18. We know all about this war, but very little about the warriors or its premier battleground, Kota.

Kota Factory opens to panoramic shots of the city. Soon, we hear about it: an auto-rickshaw driver calls it “not a city but a very big hostel”. He then talks about its history. It’s a simple hook – laying context, revealing character – which is quite effective. Then, we find out more: that segregation, central to Hindu society, is important to coaching institutes, too. Here, students are divided into different batches, based on their academic performances. Better students get better teachers and more attention. It makes sense: the mediocre students are cash cows, the brilliant one's golden geese.

Realistic portrayals

We meet the protagonist, Vaibhav Pandey (Mayur More), a teenager from Itarsi, who, wanting to crack the IIT entrance exam, has enrolled in a coaching institute, Prodigy. He moves into a house as a paying guest, where he meets fellow IIT aspirants: Uday (Alam Khan), a jolly, carefree boy, and Meena (Ranjan Raj), a bespectacled, withdrawn chap – devoted to books – who talks in chaste Hindi. These are compelling, realistic portrayals: boys whose eyes don’t glint with curiosity but burn with fatigue in the anticipation of a marathon they didn’t choose to run. At one point, they roam around Kota, on a scooty, and we remember 3 Idiots, whose protagonists frolicked likewise. And sure enough, Uday invokes 3 Idiots, saying, “This is not a film.” You agree: Hindi films typically paint school and college students in broad strokes, depicting them as people devoid of identities, disconnected from social and economic realities, only interested in two things: romance and friendship.

Kota Factory, to begin with, avoids these clichés, but only to an extent: in a matter of days, Uday and Meena (literally) go out of their ways to help Vaibhav – driving him around the city, asking others for help – as if they’ve known him for months. These scenes – underscored by the song ‘Bana Hai Yaaron Se Mera Jahan’ – don’t belong in this series but look like a contrived attempt to ‘Bollywoodise’ this story where friendship, above everything else, has to reign supreme.

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Kota Factory (TV Series 2019– )  episode


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