TVF has released the first two episodes of its mini-series, 'Aspirants', that revolves around three friends appearing for the UPSC exams and how their lives have turned out years after this, also giving the audience insights into the dynamics of their friendship.
The show opens with SK, played by Abhilash Thapliyal, a professor at an IAS coaching institute in Rajinder Nagar, Delhi. As he is going forward with a lecture that is also a pep talk and reality check for the students on how tough the exams are, I couldn't help but notice how responsive the class was. I mean, I'm in my final year, and I haven't once seen any class so eager to participate and engage with the professor! It's true when they say some things are only meant for fiction...
As the show moves forward, it also shows some flashbacks from 2012 when SK himself was appearing for the exams with his friends, Abhilash and Guri, played by Naveen Kasturia and Shivankit Singh Parihar respectively. Abhilash has just moved to Rajinder Nagar and is the focus of the first episode where he is changing his optional subject in his last attempt. A lot of fuss is created around this, where other people, including SK are advising Abhilash on how it would be a grave mistake to change your major in the final attempt.
As the episode progresses to the present, we see how only Guri and SK are in touch now, and how they’ve had a fall-out with Abhilash, who has gone on to become a successful IAS officer. While Guri is not over the whole separation, reasons for which the audience has not been provided yet, SK is the friend that is relentlessly trying to get the two friends together, and make them forget the past. So when Guri announces that he is getting married, SK takes it upon himself to invite Abhilash too and looks at Guri’s marriage as the perfect way to mend things between the two. Honestly, SK is just friendship goals-- every group needs an SK that just binds everyone together and ensures that everyone has overcome their differences.
He is the goofy friend you need to lighten damp moments, and Abhilash Thapliyal brings a warmth to the role that gives the series the emotional touch it needs. Abhilash played by Naveen Kasturia is the typical hard-working friend who has his eyes set on his prize, and he portrays the conflicts of his character with the utmost depth. Guri, on the other hand, is the short-tempered but sentimental kind, and together, the three characters bring out a wonderful amalgamation of drama, personal conflict, and the young-spirited charm of millennial friendships.
Also, what exactly is up with Guri? The guy told his friends he’s getting married, but nobody knows who the bride is until the very end of the second episode? Wow. If only my friends gave me this amount of space…
Even during a discussion about his wedding, SK and Guri have a small argument that quickly escalates into a fight with personal jabs. And honestly, while Guri is busy trashing SK and talking about how he could never be a successful IAS Officer, SK just tries to reason everything out with his friend and doesn’t lose his cool. First of all, what even was that whole fight? Is it normal for friends to get so personal so suddenly during a discussion?? My sensitive self would legit have a breakdown if my friends did so much as even yell at me a bit, and Guri here was having a full-blown rant session about how SK was a failure. Phew… clearly, SK deserves a lot more than this.
Another striking aspect of the show was its depiction of the many obstacles that lie in the way of becoming an IAS officer and how aspirants every year deal with the unimaginable pressure that grows with every passing attempt. However, I couldn’t help but notice that there is also an insane amount of glorification when it comes to this pressure.
With depictions of entire walls laden with notes and books sprawled across the room, a certain lifestyle of these aspirants is portrayed, which might hold true too, but whether it is ideal is under question.
Other conversations about how this pressure is part of the journey are also rampant throughout the episodes; even at the cost of one’s mental well-being or self-confidence. While all this might be real, a depiction like this can also lead to actual aspirants glorifying the concept of constantly being under pressure.
Popular culture has romanticized slogging in a way that it makes students feel lesser than if they are not working incessantly towards a bar that is set extremely high in the first place. Dramatizing hard work like this for creative reasons is always valid, but it is also important to mention that not clearing these exams is not the end of the world, and it most definitely does not define your capabilities.
Students have to look at these failures as lesson and not personal incompetence, and Aspirants, from its second episode, has started exploring that idea. Let's hope that in the upcoming episodes too, the show continues to be a beacon of hope for aspiring students rather than regular movies or TV shows that only show a very romanticized version of hard work, setting unattainable standards for students.
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