Laakhon Mein Ek: Biswa Kalyan Rath's web series has promising premise, faltering plot

Utkarsh Srivastava

October 14, 2017 12:33:12 IST

Biswa Kalyan Rath, the creator of Laakhon Mein Ek is one of the names on the contemporary Indian comedy scene. While he started off as one half of the Pretentious Movie Reviews duo, he has since turned his initial open mic nights into a cameo in a Netflix movie into an Amazon stand-up special.

As such when he writes a web series, it would be a laugh riot, right?

Wrong.

Instead, IITian Biswa has come up with a dark story of a kid sent away by his parents to prepare for IIT entrance exams. There is bullying, violence and a whole lot of curse words. There are a few laughs thrown in as well but they are part of the narrative and nowhere does the show pretend to pass off for comedy.

Laakhon Mein Ek brings out some dark memories

If you took science after Class 10 and got into the grind that is IIT preparation, this show will bring up memories. Especially more so if you were one of the teeming majority who took one look at ML Khanna’s IIT Mathematics and knew that your parents’ dreams would not be fulfilled.

Still from Laakhon Mein Ek

Still from Biswa Kalyan Rath's Laakhon Mein Ek

The protagonist (played by the talented Ritvik “Dangal boy” Sahore) is “Aakash from Raipur”, who just does not have the aptitude to crack the exam but is pushed into preparing for it by his parents. He lands up at Genius Infinity, a residential institute where people walk around with their noses in books and geeks are the alpha males. We see him try his damned hardest but it’s clear that IITs are beyond his reach.

The show taps into that frustration of realising that you are not good enough. It will resonate deeply with the millions who went to IIT “coaching” and could barely keep their eyes open in class. Things wouldn’t make sense even after hours of struggle and just when you thought you had cracked one problem, you would find out that the others were already on the next chapter. If you were lucky, you got into something else and left the Physics-Chemistry-Maths monster behind. If not, you walked into one of the thousands of shady engineering colleges where ragging is a way of life.

Director Abhishek Sengupta shows a flair for portraying stress and frustration. We see Aakash getting closer to the edge as despite his best efforts, his scores don’t improve. He studies in washrooms, studies while his friends create a ruckus and then studies some more. The initial set up of a happy-go-lucky kid who mimics Amitabh Bachchan fades away to be replaced by a scared child who barrels into an unknown future.

Chudail and Bakri

Sahore portrays Aakash well, but the show will be remembered for his two friends, Chudail and Bakri. Chudail is responsible for roughly 70 percent of the show’s laughs and is the guy with the “setting” with the peon. He is probably the only person enjoying his time at Genius Infinity and is the perfect foil to the nerds around him

Bakri is a rustic village boy with the right excuses (“Sir, hume kisi ne fasaya hai”), the right dance moves (lock and pop with a touch of bhangra) and the right expression (super deadpan). He also has the greatest one-sided love story in the world which ends all too soon but at least we get a couple of poems out of it.

Mention must also be made of the roles played by Biswa himself and Kumar Varun. Both of them play teachers at the institute and rattle off creditable performances. Finally, Dharmesh Patel passes the test of all great antagonists: by the end of the series, you hate the very sight of him and feel that a debilitating injury to him wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Top-notch music/background score

The show’s music comes from Neel Adhikari, the frontman of Neel and the Lightbulbs, one of the better acts at any music festival. It is one of the highlights of the show and is done just right. Right from the title track to the background scores in different scenes, Adhikari’s talent shines through as he sets the right mood for the show.

There is also a little Nucleya number worked into the show which should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Biswa. Many people actually discovered Nucleya through Biswa’s videos and this little shout out works pretty well.

Almost there, but not quite

The show has a promising premise with a man of considerable talent behind it. After you get over the initial surprise of it not being a comedy, it starts settling in well and plants many plot set-ups which promise good payoffs down the line.

Except these payoffs never arrive. Characters disappear and are never heard from again. Others flit between helpful to maniacal with little explanations for their actions. Peculiarities in personalities are hinted at but then are completely forgotten. The ending is particularly disappointing as it is ridiculously incomplete. This is all the more baffling as Biswa is a master of dropping a hint at the beginning of his stand-ups and then delivering the pay-off right at the end.

Also read: Biswa Kalyan Rath on his new web series Laakhon Mein Ek, and moving on from Pretentious Movie Reviews

This lack of closure is little more than an example of lazy writing. Neither a lack of writing time nor runtime can be cited as excuses as Biswa worked on the show on and off for two years and had always envisioned it as a web series. Laakhon Mein Ek can’t claim to be unique either as it has definite shades of Udaan and 3 Idiots.

As web series come into their own as a separate medium of storytelling, the standards to which shows are held to are considerably higher. The Viral Fever has set the bar with excellent content in its shows like Pitchers and Tripling. It is not that these shows have insanely better production quality or have Shah Rukh Khan acting in them. Instead, they rely on the backbone of really good, offbeat stories which stay with the viewer long after they finish watching it.

Sadly, Laakhon Mein Ek disappoints on the very front it was expected to do well: the writing. It is clear that as of now, Biswa cannot translate his comedy gifts into a solid drama storyline. Which means the show is resigned to the same fate as its protagonist — of being just one among many.

Updated Date: Oct 14, 2017 12:33 PM