“When young people in India are tired of their 9-5 jobs, they have 3 ways out – an MBA, the IAS, or a startup.”, Naveen Bansal’s boss complacently says, staring at him across his desk. Naveen has been guilty of the latter. The night before, he had drunkenly telephoned his boss, called him a chutiya, and quit to pursue his startup dreams.
While not everyone’s entrepreneurial journey begins on a note as dramatic as this, young India is quite firmly on the startup bandwagon. For years now, the startup subculture had been silently bubbling under the surface of mainstream consciousness, remaining confined within college campuses and and funded incubators. But if we needed any more proof that it’s finally come of age, it’s in the form The Viral Fever’s new mini series, Pitchers.
Pitchers follows the story of Naveen and his two friends, Yogendra and Jitender, as they set about creating their own startup in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai. “They’re creating a Silicon Valley in Hiranandani now”, says one of the characters on the show, and the three protagonists find themselves smack in the middle of all the action. All three are jaded with their jobs, and inspiration to start off their own venture is not in short supply. Naveen’s senior from college is a laconic CEO whose company has just been valued at a billion dollars, and hoardings of successful startups (mainly Housing.com) scream at them wherever they go.
They are faced with challenges that would be familiar to most people who’ve taken the startup plunge – Jitender is reluctant to leave his job because he’s married and must spend most of his time grocery shopping, Naveen is simultaneously disbelieving and proud of his senior’s company’s $1 billion valuation, and Yogendra has trouble spelling ‘entrepreneurship’, but maintains that spirit, more than spelling, is crucial to a startup’s success.
The show captures Mumbai’s startup vibe well. It effortlessly moves between the bustling bars, the overly colourful offices, and the cramped apartments with their water problems. The language, in typical TVF style, is conversational and authentic, and peppered with expletives. The acting is spot on, with TVF regulars coming up with solid performances. Humour has always been TVF’s forte, and Pitchers doesn’t disappoint. It’s dry, sardonic and refreshingly mature.
Where the show slips up is its pace. At 40 minutes, the episode seems stretched, and some of the longer montages seem particularly forced. The writing, thought competent, does not quite have the zip and fluidity of the TVF’s absolutely brilliant previous offering, Permanent Roommates.
This show also marks a beginning for TVF’s own video channel, TVFPlay.com. All of Pitchers’ episodes will debut here, and the Youtube release will follow a week later. This is a bold move, and perhaps an attempt to break Youtube hegemony in the video industry, and would mean that content creators get to keep a larger share of the advertising pie.
Overall, Pitchers is a bold, commendable attempt. Shot at over Rs. 50 lakh per episode, it is India’s most expensive web series to date. This show could well determine how independently produced video content is received in India. TVF is a startup too, and one whose progress traditional media should be watching very keenly.