Biswa’s ‘Laakhon Mein Ek’ Barely Stands Out, Ironically Lacks Edge
Biswa Kalyan Rath has come a long way from his lighthearted and super-viral Pretentious Movie Reviews to his dark commentary on the life of an IIT aspirant, Laakhon Mein Ek. It’s great to see his range as an artist go beyond his expletive ridden stand up acts, but honestly, I was expecting a lot more edge in his storytelling. The six part Amazon Prime web series goes from being fun to a rather dark and predictably sadistic story very quickly, with a narrative we’ve sat through way too often – a young boy being suffocated by his parents’ IIT ambitions to the point of no return.
Ritvik Sahore (of Dangal fame) plays the helpless Aakash Gupta from Raipur, who lands up at an IIT coaching centre in Vishakhapatnam, like a lamb ends up in a slaughter house, thanks to his typically Indian maa baap. Trashing the IIT dream is what Rath does best across all his material. But Laakhon Mein Ek disappoints with its lack of humour and a rather predictable end.
Director Abhishek Sengupta starts the series with an interesting promise and does a fair job of building up stress and frustration till the protagonist reaches his breaking point. But fatigue sets into the story somewhere around the third episode.
When Aakash lands up at Genius Infinity, a residential coaching centre where nerds are the cool dudes, he’s clearly out of place. He tries to fit in with the toppers, then the notorious ones, then the staff and even with the teachers, only to feel like a misfit in every way possible.
Ragging is a way of life here and he’s in section D, with the most undeserving lot, that shouldn’t even be allowed inside an IIT campus. Aakash, Bakri and Chudail, the trio at the heart of this story, hold their ground with their performances. Biswa though, leaves no mark on the story himself as the encouraging professor. Aakash fights discrimination, ragging, bullying and physical discomfort but can’t bear to disappoint his pushy parents. Now that’s the aadarsh beta. He even tries his best to study, but failure after failure makes him resort to cheating, drugs and a suicide attempt.
From a happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who dreams of becoming a YouTube sensation with his mimicry, Aakash turns into a disoriented soul staring at an uncertain future. Every phone call home is a set back.
What Laakhon Mein Ek also does rather well, is create a sense of doom and the feeling of not being good enough, that every young Indian has felt somewhere along his/her academic journey.
You might be tempted to draw a comparison between Biswa’s story and Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots. But don’t make that mistake. Ironically, the blockbuster does a much better job of satire than its digital counterpart.
A special mention for Neel Adhikari, the frontman of Neel and the Lightbulbs, is well deserved. His sound design and background score does wonders to the dark corridors and leaking pipes of Genius Infinity and the lives it destroys.
As we near the end though, whatever little is left of the story goes out the window, thanks to bizarre yet predictable events. Chudail convinces Aakash that jumping off the terrace would serve no purpose, and that life’s not about what his parents want, but about where his own passion lies. It’s nothing short of cringeworthy to be honest.
Feels like Biswa got a little lazy while writing the end. Laakhon Mein Ek is no unique take on Indian parenting and education, but I wish Biswa’s edgy humour had translated into a more satirical and dark drama that stood out in the crowd.
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