It might have this feeling of being a mix of movies like 3 Idiots, Dil Chahta Hai, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, etc., but Aspirants, the new TVF original, wins you over with the feel factor. There is a reason why movies like ZNMD and Dil Chahta Hai are on the repeat watch list of many of us, even though the backdrop of most of the characters is not at all relatable. And that’s because the conflicts of those characters are somewhere familiar for us. So, a show like Aspirants with perseverance as a theme gets ample opportunity to tap into people’s identifiable emotions and have used it pretty effectively to create an appealing series with nicely layered characters.
The story here is primarily about 3 UPSC aspirants Abhilash, Guri, and SK. They all came to Rajinder Nagar, Delhi, to join the race to become a civil servant. Abhilash had taken a break from his job for this, SK had no backup plans, and Guri was more on the chill side. So what we see in Aspirants is their journey. The anxiety through which they had to go through, the tough choices they had to make, the sacrifices they made, the pieces of advice they received, and the disagreements between them, etc., are what we get to see in this 5 episode series from TVF.
It seems like the makers are pretty clear about the fact that people will find the structure of the series quite familiar. At one point through the character SK, they even acknowledge the Dil Chahta Hai reference. Instead of trying to tweak too much from that mold, writer Deepesh Sumitra Jagdish decides to focus on his characters. And what that has done is that it opened up many ways through which the series connects to people. For me, it was the character of SK, and if I have to pick a scene, it will be his phone call to Abhilash in the very last episode. But that doesn’t mean others are way too fictional. Guri is far too emotional, Abhilash is constantly in this insecure zone, and then there is Sandeep Bhaiya, who seems to have gone through the worst of all. Something familiar is getting presented here through any of these major characters, and that’s why Aspirants feels constantly engaging.
In some ways, Aspirants bust this myth that realism is the new way of content creation. Apoorv Singh Karki shows you how an evolved version of filmy storytelling can still create the mood. You do have dramatic moments, cheesy romantic encounters, and slow-motion shots in this web series. But it embraces the changes happening in presentation these days and gives it a new outlook. Writer Deepesh Sumitra Jagdish has done a brilliant job in blending the emotional journey and the UPSC hurdles of the central characters. When you hear Sandeep talk about his life, it is placed there in order to move Abhilash in a way that he takes the right choice in his UPSC journey. The cinematography captures the vibe of Rajinder Nagar neatly, and the cross-cutting between the past and the present was done in a seamless way.
Naveen Kasturia portrays the anxiety and stubbornness of Abhilash believably. It’s a character that could easily slip into the caricature zone, but he knew how not to overdo it. Shivankit Parihar as Guri was effective. I loved his combination scenes with Kasturia in the present, where he struggles to keep his calm. Sunny Hinduja as Sandeep Bhaiyya was terrific, in my opinion. His performance felt like the application of “less is more.” Sandeep’s fiancé’s faith in him is shown to us through a scene where he is narrating the story to Abhilash. The dialogue delivery is so brilliant that we will have respect for that unseen character. Namita Dubey as Dhairya is the only female perspective here, but she has an influential role in the journey of these people, and Namita’s performance had that required heft. My personal favorite was the ignored friend SK, played by Abhilash Thapliyal. SK is one character who is going through a certain humiliation in life, and yet he relies on his friends to forget that. He is that optimistic fellow who wants the gang to stay together. The earnestness in Thapliyal’s performance makes SK an extremely endearing character.
TVF Aspirants is a show that has managed to hit the right chords. They have created multiple characters with enough depth, and perhaps if there is a second season, we would get to know characters like Dhairya and SK in depth. By blending the personal emotional struggles of individuals with a competitive space like the UPSC exams, they have created a show that is familiar on a skeleton level but has flesh and blood that looks refreshing.
Something familiar is getting presented here through any of these major characters, and that's why Aspirants feels constantly engaging.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended