Top 10 TVF Originals Shows Ranked
Top 10 TVF Originals Shows Ranked: Back when TVF – The Viral Fever – started in 2010, their shows were strictly aimed at the millennials for the most part. Soon, they started churning out Hindi content- unlike most of their rival channels and media houses- and the rest is history. Later, with their venture into the creative-drama space with shows like ‘Permanent Roommates” and “Pitchers”, to the groundbreaking success of “Kota Factory”, they managed to solidify their place in the Indian OTT services place.
Since 2012, the team, along with founder Arunabh Kumar, has been churning clutter-breaking and ‘viral’-friendly web content for an entertainment-starved younger generation of Indians. Even with the onset of multiple media outlets and production houses years later, TVF continues to be one of the most consistent pioneers to provide quality web content in India. Here’s a look at some of their most respected and accomplished originals, ranked from 10 to 1.
10. Hostel Daze
After the breakthrough success of “Kota Factory”, Amazon Prime Video’s “Hostel Daze” gave TVF another opportunity to venture into the lives of the science-pursuing youth of the country, with their usual blend of naturalism combined with melancholia. This time through the adventures of four friends, the team manages to explore what goes inside an engineering hostel. With a diverse cast of both old and new actors – the most welcoming entry being that of Adarsh Gourav who later went on to star in “The White Tiger”- the show gives us an episodic journey into the academic and entrepreneurial diversity on campus.
Though highly binge-worthy as these shows often are, there’s almost a sense of problematic aspect to the way in which the series treats some of its characters. Mind you, the creators never say that the happenings inside these hostels aren’t problematic, but there are moments throughout that you wish were more complex and subtle in their exploration of deeper themes. The show works for the most part, however, especially because of how living in the place feels. Every episode is narrated by an adult who operates within the college and the hostel universe — be it the custodian, security guard, canteen manager, chemistry professor, or even the xerox shop owner. Their observations and quips further add to make this culture feel palpable- something that millions of people could relate to.
TVF has always delivered upon capturing a sense of being really well, irrespective of what the template of their show might be. Some of the best ones are often the ones that balance the emotional dynamics with the situational awareness of the environment the very characters are set in. With “Triplings”, they gave us something that the Indian OTT space had barely explored back in the day. The show traces the story of three siblings Chandan, Chanchal, and Chitvan on a road trip. With its fair share of bumps, they unite after a rough patch in their rocky relationships, only to find themselves coming closer through one thing that best makes sure why sibling relations remain everlasting- the quest for ultimately experiencing things together.
In “Triplings”, after the first few episodes of the three siblings drifting from one obstacle to another, we see them head to Manali to their childhood home. In what remains one of the first emotionally healthy on-screen parenting we’ve gotten in the Indian content space, we get Kumud Mishra and Shernaz Patel who play the parents. The finale for that first season hit the emotional check-box so well, that you almost forgive the creators for stretching the unwarranted plot for the second season. How can you top Kumud Mishra’s ineffable persona and the soul-enlightening parent-son advice he gave to his elder son over the hills of Himachal?
8. Permanent Roommates
This 2014 show became massively popular back in the day, primarily because of how it provided the Indian audience a never-seen-before raw outlook of a modern relationship on screen. “Permanent Roommates,” tells the story of Tanya (Nidhi Singh) and Mikesh (Sumeet Vyas) who have been in a long-distance relationship for three years. When the show begins, Mikesh is seen just having moved back to India from the United States of America to propose to Tanya. He is on his knees with a ring in his hand, and she is not too sure about any of this.
After their established two-year plus venture into the YouTube creative space, “Permanent Roommates” saw TVF ace the web drama series format on its very first attempt. Although looking back, it certainly hasn’t aged very well and the spiritual contemporary works such as Dice Media’s “Little Things” captured the spirit of the subgenre much better, it’s still incredibly praiseworthy how the creators took the leap of going from quirky sitcom like the first season to a full-fledged Bollywood film in its second run. However, it’s still the images of Tanya and Mikesh having doubts about their marriage, yet moving in together amidst the relatable break-up and quick patch-up scenarios that did the magic upon the loyal TVF audience.
7. Yeh Meri Family
Scenes of children casually hanging around the house, having Rooh Afza, talking about Raja Hindustani, and discovering ways of getting the slam book through the classroom in order to get to know a girl – these are the things any 90s kid would relate to. Not only that, but it’s also a reminder for the post-90s-era kids to look back upon an interesting time in the dynamic culture of our country. TVF knows best how to capture these constant time capsules – whether they be set around a coaching institute or another household. Especially with its bare-bone minimalism, creator Sameer Saxena through “Yeh Meri Family” gives us an episodic insight into the semi-transactional time in the country’s history while reflecting on it through a child’s nativity.
Set in 1998 Jaipur, the slice-of-life web series is told through Harshu’s (Vishesh Bansal) point of view. Mona Singh as the mother and Akarsh Khurana as a ‘cool’ dad win our hearts, with plenty of emotional bedrock and funny one-liners to latch onto. But more than that, it’s the warm splashes of color the show packages its nostalgia in, while also hinting at how this may be the last summer of this sort for the 12-year-old. The snapshot of the 90s hits home through the detailed production design, and the poignant writing. We watch parents fighting while discovering adolescent things about their rapidly growing kids, and the big deal is that the air cooler was back in the day. Besides best friend Shanky, Harshu confides in his brother Dabbu and plays with his little sister Chitty. He takes the blame for their mistakes, somewhere realizing that between all the frustration of him having a ‘boring’ summer, there’s a whole life passing in between, relations being nurtured.
With 2019’s “Cubicles”, TVF explores the fundamental ironies of office life, while delving deep into its mundane nature of it. Mind you, this isn’t a Kafkaesque outlook on the draining nature of office space. With its usual optimistic ‘glass half- view’, the creators here start by telling the fish-out-of-water story of Piyush Prajapati (Abhishek Chauhan) as he newly joins an IT firm, Synotech. Thankfully, the show steers away from the temptations of ripping off The Office like sitcoms.
Most of the show is about the daily troubles that exist in a corporate 9-5 job. But there’s also an underlying theme of discovering, and even rediscovering your true self in a space that’s so often harnessed by aching mediocrity. The second season of the show came out during the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown, adding one more reason for most of us to roll back to our normal pre-pandemic lives. Though the show might seem too brushed up and sugarcoated as if it’s existing in a whole different parallel universe “Pitchers” was set in, it still remains a consistently engaging watch.
Set in Rajinder Nagar of Delhi, “Aspirants” narrates the story of three friends who prepare for UPSC together and over time drift away from each other. Set in two different timelines around six years apart, this seemed to be the first time TVF was on its path of exploring what the shortcomings and unfortunate realities of ambition and struggle could often look like. The template bears striking resemblance to films like “Dil Chahta hai”, and the show is smart enough to acknowledge that. Though its shortcomings lie in how unearned and contrived some of the character arcs seemed.
In a country as dense and culturally bounded as India is, one’s desire to become something in life often sprouts out of proving themselves first; how you establish it as your career option and whether it really keeps you satisfied is secondary. Though “Aspirants” never really translates the urgency of its subject matter, the straight-to YouTube series that broke viewership records back when it aired is a testament to how well TVF has seemed to crack its template.
In 2020, Deepak Kumar Mishra-helmed show “Panchayat” hit Amazon Prime in the midst of the COVID lockdown. It became an instant hit, as it gave us an insight into the rural hinterland where there are always too many nuts to crack in, all with their own specific ensemble of problems. We follow Abhishek’s journey into grassroots India, as he prepares himself for CAT while making his ends meet by working as a secretary of a panchayat office in rural UP. Soon, his unspoken frustration at being an average guy in his late 20s gradually gets smothered by a life of simple pleasures. Mind you, he is not the conventional Indian hero- like SRK’s Mohan from Swades- the show might trick you into believing at the start (his friend even jokes about this evident parallel).
Abhishek often stays unresponsive to the events around him and minds his own business, so that he could leave the panchayat office ASAP. But he is always eventually pulled into the intricate dynamics and minimalist desires of the people of Phulera. Thus, the social change in “Panchayat” comes as an inevitable product that sprouts out of Abhishek’s own self-centered desires. The writers, in doing so, address some of the most essential issues obliquely, rather than having a savior-complex character with saintly desires blurb it out. By not making Abhishek the selfless altruistic hero we’ve grown up watching in mainstream Hindi films set in a similar backdrop, “Panchayat” grounds itself in reality with mundane things always happening both in the foreground and background. The show uses its minimal stakes as an advantage over building a sense of belonging between us and the community, as it never looks down upon any of its characters.
3. Kota Factory
When the opening season of “Kota Factory” first arrived on YouTube in 2019, nobody knew that a black-and-white series about the dreary and borderline bleak lives of young students preparing for IIT-JEE in Kota (Rajasthan), would become so popular among the youth. Global OTT giant Netflix later stepped in to acquire the show. Even according to the benchmark TVF had already set up, “Kota Factory” connected to the youth in an unprecedented way. All thanks to the show’s adroitly sincere insight into the ordinary lives of these students. The town of Kota (Rajasthan) here felt like a character in itself, with the direction beautifully rendering the monochrome cinematography to its full effect. There’s an unspoken sense of melancholy that looms over the city, as we see it from several overhead shots.
Kota has been a mecca-like figure for JEE aspirants for years. We’re made aware that the strike rate for them while preparing there is way better than the national average. The show shamelessly places our trust in an overtly ideal protagonist of Jitu Sir, who would at times break into long didactic monologues. It’s understandable why some people might have felt that the second season was a bit underwhelming, but the kind of subtleties it brought along while expanding upon the rather gloomy world surely hit home to millions of students who continue to endure the intense coaching programs in our country.
2. TVF Pitchers
Ever since it came out in 2015, “Pitchers” has drawn (inevitable) comparisons with HBO’s hit sitcom Silicon Valley – a show that at the time of release wasn’t even aired in India. TVF’s initial outing was a show that looked at the lives and fortunes of four budding entrepreneurs — CEO Naveen (Naveen Kasturia), coder Jitu (Jitendra Kumar), marketing man Saurabh Mandal (Abhay Mahajan), and Yogendra Pandey aka Yogi. Over the course of five episodes, we are thrust into an engaging story of four twenty-somethings in Mumbai who are navigating the start-up world for the first time ever. Founder Arunabh Kumar, who also neatly conceptualized and developed the show aside from acting as the hot-headed Yogendra Kumar Pandey, remains one of the standouts. Upcoming comic actors such as Gopal Dutt also made remarkable appearances, but the emotional heart of the show is formed by Naveen Kasturia. After more than 7 years of the show, I re-watched it last month and was left stunned at how well most of the emotions worked, especially the one where a heartbreaking confrontation between Naveen and his girlfriend (Maanvi Gagroo) takes place at a grocery store. Its minimalism is at its best.
Pitchers- a reference to pitch and also to the large jug that holds your brew, remains a show that aptly portrays the deeply existential threat and urges to prove themselves that the unbounded yet deeply restrained youth in our country continues to endure. It set a precedent of themes that remained at the core of not just TVF (Kota Factory, Aspirants), but a plethora of web shows that have tried to capture the same spirit. Although it has its loopholes, one can’t help but overlook them, thanks to the team’s full-on conviction (even while dealing with the minimum of resources) and dedication.
After the golden years of the 80s and 90s with Doordarshan, Indian viewers were almost never served the sweet taste of realism in a show about the life of an Indian middle-class family. The Indian OTT space was largely dominated by intensely grim political thrillers and gangster dramas- inspired chiefly by global hits such as “Narcos”- until 2015. SonyLiv’s “Gullak” showed that the name doesn’t only signify a piggy bank that serves as the resting place of random change you have lying around, but also a reservoir of stories of the household it resides in. Here, in the small town of Maharashtra, we meet the Mishra family and their source of harmless entertainment- the neighborhood aunty Bittu ki Mummy.
In “Gullak” we meet the mother of the household- Shanti (Geetanjali Kulkarni), who rarely speaks without yelling and has an unbeatable knack for sarcasm. Her husband Santosh (Jameel Khan) is an eternally unruffled employee at a local electricity division. Their sons- Annu and Aman rarely seem to agree upon something, and yet they can’t hide their brotherly love for each other. The first episode is centered on whether their house needs renovation. The walls surrounding them double up as a metaphor for the family itself – full of cracks, in need of repair, but having a strong foundation. The moments of harmony too come from the small rewards, like the father unexpectedly buying ice cream as a treat after dinner, or a prize of Rs 40 given by him to the sons in a moment of generosity. The minimalism in “Gullak” translates into something that hits home so brilliantly, that it might overwhelm and bring you to tears with just how well the creators seem to truly understand what makes these households so special.