The second season of Kota Factory begins with a war cry. "Unrewarded geniuses are not geniuses but clichÃ©s," Maheshwari sir announces in a matter-of-fact tone to a class full of aspirants, that sucks the colour, quite literally out of the image on screen.
The first few minutes of this season sees Kota draped in colour before it recedes to the black and white tonality of the first season. It suggests that reality, its grating epiphanies do not necessarily elevate the world around you. It momentarily rescues you from its inevitabilities. As Vaibhav Pandey (Mayur More) takes his oath of Maheshwari classes, the wiped grin from his face echoes the war-like nature of an Indian life. To outgrow its ordinariness, you have to fight battles. Despite its lack of ingenuity and other false notes, through this season of Kota Factory, creators The Viral Fever (TVF) " often criticised for their safe cinema " have finally pushed the envelope.
In the second season, Vaibhav and his gang is joined by Susu, a nervous wreck of a roommate to Pandey who has now elevated himself to Maheshwari classes, the town's most coveted coaching institute. Susu does not add anything to the show other than an excuse for Jeetu Bhaiya to give one of his motivational speeches. Jeetendra Kumar, despite the weariness of a character worshipped to death, continues to be charming and magnetic as ever. Pandey's love interest Vartika, returns to the scene but the crime is never really committed. The two echo some sort of chemistry but it is neither fully fleshed nor directed towards any sort of clarity. While Pandey's struggles with Kota, and the race to qualify for IIT, continue with other roadblocks thrown in his way " like bad food and self-doubt " Meena (Ranjan Rai) again steals the show with his unique set of problems. This time, they are adolescence and desire.
This second season ditches the JEE jacket and becomes a broader story about the bureaucracy of education itself. In doing so, it also loses a bit of its universalism. Jeetu Bhaiya has a much bigger part to play as his own arc overshadows that of the kids around him. It is a credible move, following the narrative of the one man in Kota, who is 'content.' Jeetu Bhaiya leaves his former coaching institute to start his own. The two narratives run in parallel, but really, it is Jeetu Bhaiya's struggles to build an institution from the ground up that takes over the series. Sameer Saxena as Maheshwari sir is menacingly authoritarian. A new supporting cast " with a special insider TVF cameo " does the trick of freshening the pot that given Jeetu's assigned magnetism, suggests it is about to rot soon.
There are a couple of false notes in this second season. The script is much more disjointed with varying emphasis on students and teachers. Jeetu's hurdles are intriguing but they deprive the students of their time under Kota's grim sun. There is far less humour in this season that never quite manages to shake off a hanging dread over its head. You can sense it in Meena's tone, Vaibhav's struggles or even the poignancy of moments where the camera just wants to capture the unlearne