It’s always fun to speculate on what aspiring filmmakers could accomplish if they had more resources. However, aside from hefty contracts and possibly a more closely managed set, the move to Netflix appears to have done little for the Kota Factory founders. Because the first season was only mildly interesting and not as good as it was advertised to be, the show returned with a new set of five episodes that were even worse than the first.
Season 1 has an ad hoc indie feel to it for the most part. IIT aspirants in Kota, Rajasthan, are the focus of a type of incubator that draws kids from all over the country for its’mahaul,’ as well as coaching institutions worth billions of dollars. It made the best of what it had and told an interesting storey about them.
Trailer Kota Factory, one of India’s most rigorous competitive exams, takes an unexpectedly sincere look at the small community of children who sacrifice their childhoods for it. The story is told through the eyes of Vaibhav, a spoiled young man. In a country where respect is directly proportional to one’s qualifications, admission to the flagship university would effectively make them one percenters.
Kota Factory is remarkably unambitious for a drama about people aspiring to be world leaders in the future. The decision by the second-season writers to devote not one, but two episodes to bodily fluids surprised me. While Vaibhav is suffering from mid-term jaundice, Meena, Vaibhav’s friend, learns self-satisfaction. It also allows Kota Factory to embrace schmaltz in a new way, rather than just for laughs in one storey (guess which one it is).
For some reason, I expected this show to be more critical, or at the very least self-aware of the absurdity of the situation — perhaps because the title includes the word “factory.” The vast majority of people in this country must also be completely lost in this world. It was far easier for me to adjust to the cult-like atmosphere in Pandora’s fantasy world than it was in Kota Factory. Every time the words “inorganic” or “DPP” were mentioned, my heart rate dropped even more.
Despite its apparent realism, the show does not investigate the real-world ramifications of a culture it (problematically) romanticises.
Regardless of how many times Vaibhav and his friends get together for fun, Kota Factory always plays the same song about friendship in the background. For all that a college dorm room can be, the evil undercurrent that runs through places like Kota is often overlooked. Furthermore, when ‘taiyyari’ finally acknowledges the tragic reality of this level, it’s too late and comes across as a little phoney, precisely because the programme had been purposefully unaware of it all along.
Not only is Vaibhav’s behaviour toward his mother and new friend Sushrut unlikable, but the show appears to be unaware of this. One or two of his words reveal his (colorist) underbelly, but the show never questions him about them, implying that it, too, believes these things. Despite the fact that Season 2 introduces a number of female characters, there is still a distinct lack of female perspectives on the show.
When the show encounters a snag, Jeetu Bhaiya (Jitendra Kumar) is there to help. Jeetu Bhaiya perfectly embodies the difficult battle that Kota Factory appears to be fighting. He can solve any problem by launching into his sermon, which frequently contradicts previous statements. This guy reminds me of a cool pastor who tells his flock that they no longer need to go to church, but then encourages them to pray a million times a day at home. Jeetu Bhaiya is like the leader of a doomsday cult when it comes to conditioning his followers. He keeps a library of motivational lectures on hand at all times. The issue is that he does not teach the children that there is more to life than IIT and exams.
It goes without saying that he is not required to do so. The question is, however, how Kota Factory would appeal to the vast majority of viewers who had neither aspired to nor cared much about those who had. I found myself wishing for the overdone drone shots and shoehorned-in Unacademy advertising of season one after a while.
Vaibhav, Meena, and the rest of the gang appear to be preparing for college entrance exams at Kota Factory. If the film had more guts, it would have focused on the mundane and tedious aspects of life, as well as the uncertainty and disappointment that they brought with them. It may have realised that relying solely on Jeetu Bhaiya to solve all of its problems was a mistake.