Reality In Monochrome
A look at the IIT coaching Classes in Kota
Web series: Kota Factory Season 2
(Released on Netflix on 24the Sep 2021)
Director: Raghav Subbu
We often read newspaper reports of suicide committed by IIT aspirants. It is enough to send a chill down your spine, especially if you have seen your own child go through a similar grind in the dusty and dreary lanes of Kota and barely survive the punishing marathon to IIT. Kota factory (Season 1 & 2) replicates the reality of an IIT Kota aspirant as best as any film or web series can. Thankfully, it has none of the unrealistic and glamorous sheen that Bollywood films give to their students and their academic milieu. Remember Student of the Year? Even the more realistic and critically acclaimed Three Idiots had a rather ‘made-up’ look and a celebrity cast which detracts from the enormity of the tragedy of failed aspirations. Moreover, The Three Idiots talked about quitting the rat race and following your own Muse. A bit like The Dead Poets’ Society. The reality is different. There are lakhs of Indian children and their parents who think that their entry into IIT will open the doors to a golden future. They use all their meagre financial resources to send children to coaching Institutes. Only 0.04% make it and the rest are left to spend their entire life weighed down by their failure to make it big. The Kota factory talks about the personal tragedy of the children who are unable to make it big.
In Season 1, we had seen Vaibhav, Uday, Meena, Shivangi and Vartika joining the Prodigy Institute and struggling to cope with the physical and mental upheaval of competing with hundreds of students whose only goal is to somehow make it to IIT. Their only anchor is Jeetu Bhaiya, the Physics teacher, who in his own brusque fashion hands out practical advice that helps this band of friends to somehow plod along. Season 2 begins with Vaibhav shifting to the coveted Maheshwari Institute. The Orientation session sets the tone of Season 2. The head of the Maheshwari Institute tells them clearly ‘aap SUV drive kareinge ya sedan ya hatchback yeh sab yeh exam decide karega’. The pledge the children take during the Orientation session has a lot of fascist overtones. It is as though they are sacrificing themselves at the altar of the IIT prize. The toll on the families of the children is equally heavy, both financially and emotionally. Jeetu Bhaiya enunciates this succinctly when he says ‘IIT sirf ek bachcha nahi, poori family deti hai’.
The impressionable teenagers are not just spending unearthly hours studying but are also battling peer pressure, sickness, raging hormones and crushes. Jeetu Bhaiya, a priest and Agony Aunt rolled into one, tries to keep the children afloat with his encouragement and sermonizing but clearly it is a losing battle. One anxious girl does not want to sit for the IIT exam fearing failure but on Jeetu Bhaiya’s insistence gives the exam. Her failure leads her to commit suicide. This is the terrible reality of the aspirants. Sink or swim. When the results are to come out, Keshav Maheshwari sits in his War room monitoring his wins and exults at having made a cool 1.6 billion that year from his coaching classes. Within minutes of the results being out, the posters of the toppers are put up everywhere in the city and the camera zooms in on to a BMW which will be given to the topper by the Coaching Institute. For the top rankers, it is a battle fought and won but for those languishing in the margins, the future looks bleak.
The monochrome tones, shots of smoke spewing factories, ordinary, confused and clumsy students caught in a never-ending Herculean task, makes the series realistic and very relatable for the children as well as the parents who send their children to the Kota factories in droves. The Web series leaves the viewers with food for thought. Is it right to push children into an education system that judges your ability by your IIT rank and the salary package you draw as an IITian? Does it make sense to set children up for failure or worse still, a debilitating long-term anxiety or depression? Another brick in the wall (Pink Floyd) … Is that what we want our children to become in the pursuit of a chimera? Are Coaching Institutes nothing but money spinners? Do genuine and idealistic teachers like Jeetu Bhaiya have no place in the new education system? These are the questions that the Web Series raises. I’ll leave you to ponder over these questions and try and find a solution to this dilemma. I could not.