Currently standing at #24 on the Top 250 TV Shows on IMDB, The Viral Fever’s original online TV show Pitchers, that culminated three weeks ago, captured the Indian audience’s imaginations in a manner and scale that was unprecedented.Flagging in more than a million views for each of its five episodes, Pitchers tells the story of four friends who leave behind high-salaried jobs to chase the new Indian dream -- a startup.
This is TVF’s second attempt at creating an online TV series after Permanent Roommates, which did pretty well on its own too. But Pitchers kicks things up a notch -- whether it’s in production values, casting, scripting, technical inputs and more. The pilot, aired on June 10, itself created such huge waves, it was impossible to meet people and not have at least one of them remark, ‘Tu beer hai!’ (a line from a hilarious conversation between the lead character and his successful entrepreneur friend) out of the blue.
Naveen (Naveen Kasturia), Jitu (Jitendra Kumar), and Yogendra Pandey aka Yogi (Arunabh Kumar) are three friends who have dreamt of starting their own company for a long time. Things are set into motion when Naveen who, angry at not being given his due at work, resigns in an inebriated state. At the same time, he receives news of his B-Plan reaching the final round of the NASSCOM start-up conclave. Bolstered by the kind of reckless energy that emanates from the faint glimmers of elusive success that the conclave promises, Naveen convinces his friends to quit their jobs and join him to prepare for the final presentations.Add to this mix, Naveen’s immensely annoying but seamlessly adorable and child-like Saurabh Mandal (Abhay Mahajan) and the motley crew of Indian start-ups is up and ready to go.
The show’s been endlessly compared to HBO’s Silicon Valley, and while the similarities are glaring, they also need to be seen as integral components of any startup story that can ever be told. The creators here have managed to weave a narrative into five episodes of 40 minutes each (the final one clocks in at close to 60 minutes), with the proverbial beginning, middle, and end (done well)-- creating unforgettable characters.
Apart from the start-up story, for once, viewers are treated to a romantic track in the storyline that doesn’t seem contrived. Naveen and Shreya (played effervescently by Maanvi Gagroo) share a chemistry that could put most seasoned actors to shame. There’s banter, empathy, tension, sex (talk of it), the all-encompassing career versus love debate -- all of it stripped of melodrama and the dreaded simpering.
All the characters hold their own. Even the highly caricatured Mandal carries weight because of Mahajan’s deft and capable portrayal. Anurabh is more than fantastic as the ultra-douche Yogi who cannot speak in anything but expletives.
But perhaps, Jitendra as Jitu is the best written role on TV seen in sometime. His handling of the recently (arranged) married, urban, middle class engineer, who is more afraid of his father than a regular five year old, is nothing short of pure genius. There are obviously a few quibbles. The forced inclusion of two women entrepreneurs complaining about the lack of female toilets at a summit, seem crude, unnecessary and ultimately insulting. At no point does the show mention what the startup is actually about, quite curious for a show that’s meant to be about startups. We don’t even know the name of the company these four people have apparently been slogging away for.
These are of course minor quibbles for a show that ultimately achieves what it went out to first do -- create quality content for the subcontinent audience, at a time when disillusionment with television is at an all time high. We can’t wait for Season 2.
The show can be caught in its entirety on the TVF Play website or on YouTube on The Viral Fever’s channel.