TVF Aspirants Review – Not Just A Review
Reviewed by: Anil Sonawane
In the year 1918, a young man called Chintaman Dwarkanath Deshmukh appeared for and topped the Indian Civil Service Examination. This exam was held only in England those days and is a precursor to one of the most glorified examinations, UPSC, held in India today. All the glory surrounding the service commission jobs, the attraction and mystery surrounding the power that comes along with the success of cracking these difficult examinations make for a potent potion to be transformed into a tale told going back and forth in time.
TVF Aspirants Review – Not Just A Review
Aspirants is a mini web series comprising 5 episodes dealing with the youth appearing for the UPSC examination. Though the locale of the events happening in this series is Rajinder Nagar Delhi, one can come across such areas in most of the cities in India. There are areas that are home to coaching classes. The young generation, coming from various parts of India, aspiring to crack these competitive examinations rents small rooms and makes Rajinder Nagar it’s home till they make it or go back to their native places as they fail.
Aspirant is a story of three friends, Abhilash (Naveen Kasturia), Shwetketu (AbhilashThapliyal), and Guri (ShivankitParihar) struggling to achieve their dreams. En route, there are emotions, tears, laughs, drinks, fights, reunions, love stories, and breakups. Library, classrooms, chai keadde, discussions on how to prepare for the examinations, books, notes, lack of money all these aspects are showcased giving the series a realistic feel and would make anyone, who has gone through all this, nostalgic.
It is endearing to witness that a web series has the guts to show that students (future IAS officers) have live-in relationships, drink, and smoke and there is nothing wrong with it. And it also makes one wonder why people had problems with students of JNU who were targeted for doing the same. The achievements and failures have nothing to do with the simple pleasures of life.
The series begins with an IAS officer explaining to people on a bus adda how to dispose off an empty water bottle. This scene sets the tone for the positive thinking a UPSC aspirant should have. Solution-oriented thinking or out-of-the-box thinking are the two terms we get to listen to frequently as we delve deeper into the series. It moves from present to past of the characters smoothly using flashback technique and enmeshes all the minute elements of a student’s life with what he or she becomes in the future.
All the actors have done well. Sunny Hinduja (plays Sandeep Bhaiya) and Namita Dubey (plays Dhairya) get less screen time but every moment of their screen presence is a delight to watch. One wishes Sandeep Bhaiya should have got more screen time. The lack of importance given to female characters is something that reflects the gender composition or sex ratio of candidates venturing into competitive exams.
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The music is soothing and suits the mood and pace of the story. The songs aptly describe the emotions of the characters. One of the highlights of the series is the everydayness of the characters depicted through the way they dress, behave, and the spaces they occupy in the story. This is what makes this series more relatable.
All five episodes are scripted well. They had to be written carefully as the subject is a bit uncommon and characters have to speak a lot to explain the decisions they take or what drives them for hard work. One should note the minute variations of Hindi spoken by various characters from regions like Haryana, Bihar, and other states. The academic milieu is so out of syllabus for the video content created in India that there still aren’t good films/video content created or whatever is available is not up to the mark. So, in this series, one gets to listen to poetry by Dushyant Kumar, Kunwar Narayan, SohanlalDwivedi.
There are shots in which one gets to see posters of Bhagat Singh and Swami Vivekanand on the walls. This mini-series keeps one engaged till the end as each episode keeps the excitement from being combusted as it would be uncovered in the next episode. Minimum symbolism, into-the-face visuals, and straightforward dialogues give it a feel of apolitical content. The achievements of the characters and the way the series ends would definitely make you feel happy but it hides the ugly truth of competitive exams.
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One has to be ruthless with emotions and relations to achieve the aims. One loses a lot in the journey of success. Aspirants show an entire micro-economy dependent on these examinations. The rooms rented, the photocopying shops, the coaching classes, the notes, the small eateries, and chai keadde and I am sure there would be more to be noted.
Students in India are going to find the series fascinating as areas like Rajinder Nagar exist in every city of India where the youth spend their important years pursuing a career in public service commission. Aspirants show characters succumbing to the methods, of testing the candidate’s abilities, devised by these competitive exams. In one of the episodes, one of the characters says to the other that he does not deserve it as he comes from the quota/reservation category.
This character obviously believes in the inherent merit that he possesses. And by merit, he means the ability to memorize, write answers in the stipulated time frame, answer questions (based mostly on logic) asked at the time of the interview. Thus, this series also titillates the audience to think about merit, failure, and success in a new way. Sandeep Bhiya believes that an aspirant should not have a Plan B as it is for losers. Are the aspirants who fail to crack the exam worthless? What happens to them? Life in this series gives these characters a second chance. The journey of an aspirant keeps you glued to the screen.
I recommend don’t make it a “plan B”, do watch the series. You may get a déjà vu experience and find it inspiring.