MTV hosts Raghu and Rajiv are interviewing a potential hire for their new startup. Their plan is ambitious — they want to build India’s first company on television, and are assembling a crack team from across the country. A hopeful candidate sits across them. But there’s a problem.
“There’s something that’s really wrong about you,” says Anisha Singh, founder of MyDala and a judge on the show. “Your handwriting is really bad.”
The judges then proceed to harangue the candidate for turning in a form that they were unable to read. He tries to mumble an apology before Rajiv cuts him off. “Abbe oye,” he says as dramatic music starts playing in the background. “Tereko lagta hai koi ye form padh sakta hai? (Do you think anyone can read your form?)”. He flings the form in the air, and it drops to the ground in slow motion.
MTV’s new show Dropout Pvt. Ltd, has just released its first episode, and it’s chock full of little vignettes like these. Dropout says it wants to remove the stigma around dropping out, and will choose ‘misfits’ who’ll then get together and build a company. The entire process, warts and all, will be televised.
But Dropout’s first episode seems to talk about everything other than startups. For one, Dropout takes liberties with the concept of dropping out. So the contestants on the show don’t really have to have dropped out of college — they could’ve “dropped out” of a job, or “dropped out” out of family business. Judge Anisha Singh, viewers are told in all seriousness, dropped out of the idea that women should remain at home.
The interviews feel much like Roadies auditions, but with slightly more sophisticated sets and possibly less swearing. Raghu and Rajiv are their usual belligerent selves. “I don’t think you’re a learner. I think you’re a failure,” they tell a candidate who’s had three failed startups. They go on to tell him that he’s not only a failure in his life, but he’s also failing his wife. Another candidate is told that she’s a half-hearted entrepreneur, and yet another is told that because he lives in a bungalow, his life is too fancy to allow him to start up.
The entrepreneur judges Sandeep Aggarwal, whose company Droom also sponsors the show, Games2Win founder Alok Kejriwal, and Anisha Singh attempt to steer conversations towards business questions, but they’re overshadowed by the Roadies twins, who seem to take particular relish in psycho-analyzing the candidates. One candidate is talking about her job, saying how she never got a chance to when Raghu leans back in his chair and asks her: Do you think your parents regret not having a boy?
And there are the usual machinations that go into reality shows. Candidates have backstories and wounds that the judges try to prick — someone had an abusive father, someone watched their mum die. Raghu and Rajiv take viewers across emotional journeys, berating candidates, beating them down, before dispensing what they think is useful life advice. Turns out the candidate who was told he’s a failure isn’t really one — Raghu proudly says he’d been trying to get him to break, but he withstood their barbs. The judges unanimously declare he’s a Dropout. But by then the lines have blurred — there’s no way to tell if you’re watching Roadies or Dropout.
At the end of an hour of Dropout, two of the four candidates cried. Three of the four were recommended therapy. And zero were people you’d want to watch after the first episode.