A DIRE LEARN­ING CURVE

Pranks are their means for sur­vival in a pres­sure cooker en­vi­ron­ment

India Today - - LEISURE - —Suhani Singh

Stand-up co­me­dian Biswa Kalyan Rath has made a habit of tick­ling the funny bone in his au­di­ence. But in his new Ama­zon Prime orig­i­nal se­ries, Laakhon Mein Ek, he also makes view­ers think, even ask­ing some tough ques­tions of them.

With the help of writ­ers Vas­par Dandi­wal and Karan Agar­wal, Rath con­jures a re­al­is­tic por­trait of the dif­fi­cult and gloomy life in hos­tel for stu­dents des­per­ate for ad­mis­sion to the In­dian In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy. While Ra­jku­mar Hirani’s 3 Id­iots fo­cused on the many per­ils and rare joys of life on an IIT cam­pus, Laakhon Mein Ek hones in on the daily pres­sures kids face just to get there.

The pro­tag­o­nist is Aakash (Ritvik Sa­hore, who is fan­tas­tic), a teenager from Raipur whose hap­less ex­is­tence comes cour­tesy his fa­ther’s dream that he grad­u­ate from IIT. Packed off against his wishes to a coach­ing in­sti­tute in Visakha­p­at­nam for a prep course, Aakash strug­gles to ex­cel aca­dem­i­cally.

Rath wanted the se­ries to stir more de­bate on the fraught at­mos­phere in­side the pri­vate in­sti­tutes that have made a busi­ness out of ed­u­ca­tion, and in the process taken the blame for nu­mer­ous suicides. It’s in­deed hard not to think of the trou­bling re­ports from Kota in Ra­jasthan, the hub of IIT coach­ing cen­tres, while watch­ing the show. “I would be glad if more peo­ple saw and felt what these kids go through... if it makes an iota of dif­fer­ence in one par­ent’s mind, we’ll have achieved some­thing,” Rath said.

In Laakhon Mein

Ek, Murthy (Shiv Ku­mar Subra­ma­niam) is the dic­ta­to­rial head­mas­ter who trig­gers much of the es­ca­lat­ing drama. The trou­ble-mak­ing an­tics of Aakash and his friends, Bakri and Chu­dail, pro­vide a dose of comic re­lief. Pranks are their means of sur­vival in the pres­sure cooker en­vi­ron­ment. But even as the hi­jinks es­ca­late in the bat­tle be­tween the ul­tra geeks of Sec­tion A and the lower wattage stu­dents of Sec­tion D, the mak­ers never shy away from high­light­ing the anx­i­ety that lurks in ev­ery cor­ner of the cam­pus. Aakash’s des­per­a­tion to meet his par­ents’ ex­pec­ta­tions takes him down an im­moral path and the con­se­quences of his ac­tions cul­mi­nate in a cli­max where chaos reigns.

“It started out as com­edy,” says Rath. “But slowly through the writ­ing process we un­der­stood that this is not a story for a com­edy. If we have to stay true to their world and the char­ac­ters, we will have to sac­ri­fice the com­edy. We were more than will­ing to do what­ever the story de­serves.”

Laakhon Mein Ek works best when it’s deal­ing with stu­dent life and boys-on­the-verge-of-a-ner­vous­break­down. Ad­dress­ing is­sues such as frus­tra­tion, seg­re­ga­tion and hos­til­ity, Laakhon Mein Ek is a re­minder that aal izz not well in our ob­ses­sion to reach the IITs. With Aakash left with few an­swers and, in­deed, more and more ques­tions, Nath has us wait­ing for sea­son two.

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