The opening stretch of B.Tech, a Telugu web series, is almost like a fairytale. The parents of an engineering student (Kaushik Ghantasala as Vikram) push him towards the idea of making films during his exams. When you watch this particular setup, you’d think that this would play out as a dream, and, Vikram’s father would yell at him from the living room any minute. But that’s the twist that Tharun Bhascker, the writer, throws at you when you’re least expecting it. It’s not a dream; it’s happening for real. Vikram’s parents are genuinely unconcerned about their son’s college education.
But, just when you relax and gawk at the subversion of the genre, the truth behind the setup arrives like the force of a mediocre tornado. Tharun hasn’t gone too far from the usual engineering-isn’t-my-thing angst of young adults who have the courage to look deeper into the wider opportunities that today’s world is ready to offer. The protagonists — Vikram, Hari (Abhay Bethiganti), and Akhtar (Meraj Ahmed) — are twenty-somethings who’re also frustrated at how the society treats them like products that are manufactured in a factory.
Parents, in Tharun’s scripts (Pelli Choopulu, Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi, and B.Tech), want their children to become engineers, come what may. Of course, they turn around and listen to their wards later; but the initial hurdles that are placed in front of his principal characters are all the same. I read somewhere that B.Tech was the first script that Tharun wrote, which means he penned this before his National Award winning film Pelli Choopulu. It makes sense now, since all the characters he’s created look like they’ve been cooked in the same bowl.
B.Tech actually addresses that state of illusion in a meta-conversation where Vikram’s friend argues that movies should provide hope to its characters. And, hope for anybody would mean seizing the day.
While Hari wants to follow his heart and become a businessman (he makes edible clays), Akhtar spends most of the time in his garage modifying bikes so that he can participate in motorcycle racing. And, then, there’s Vikram (probably Tharun’s alter-ego) who’s so sick of engineering that he starts writing scripts for short films on exam sheets. This plot point took me back to my college days where one of my friends wrote the lyrics of a popular Kannada song in an exam. In the series, Vikram doesn’t submit the sheets; but, that wasn’t true in my friend’s case, as he couldn’t smuggle the papers out of the class room. So, in reality, my friend was humiliated by the lecturer, who was grading our papers, and, his parents were summoned by the Principal.
Do you see the difference between how things unfold on the screen and how they take shape away from it? That’s what fiction does. It gives room for the heroes to win. More often than not, even when the characters — that are supposed to be likeable — are staring at defeat, they suddenly chance upon a silver-lining and emerge victorious. B.Tech actually addresses that state of illusion in a meta-conversation where Vikram’s friend argues that movies should provide hope to its characters. And, hope for anybody would mean seizing the day.
Unlike Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi, the three main characters in B.Tech aren’t members of the same gang. Their stories appear as separate threads in which one character’s journey affects the other. If I have to put it in cinematic terms, it would be, “The butterfly effect meets the hyperlink genre.”
B.Tech strikes the right chord; however, none of it feels fresh.
Kaushik gets the meatiest story arc since he stars as a filmmaker. In one of the funniest scenes, Pratap (Chaitanya Garikipati), Vikram’s friend and a cinematographer, goes to the terrace to hunt for a creative angle to shoot a scene and drops the camera. That kind of inherent humor is absent in the lives of Hari and Akhtar, though, flashes of it occur every now and then. Also, Meraj Ahmed seems like the weakest actor among the three, as he doesn’t seem to be invested in his character as much as the others.
All along the course of the Zee5 series, I felt like I was watching one big short film by an engineer-turned-director (B.Tech is directed by Upendra Varma). It strikes the right chord; however, none of it feels fresh. If I do go back to the series a few months, or years, down the line, it’d totally be for Raghu Dixit’s optimistic music.