A group of engineering students gets into trouble for ragging juniors. They skip the usual love triangle and find themselves in a love square, and then romantically bond over having dirty rooms. Finally, they realise that home is where the heart and the heart is in the hostel.
The second season of The Viral Fever’s Hostel Daze on Amazon Prime Video continues the tradition of vignettes from young adulthood that characterised season one.
Sprinkled throughout are the staple themes of TVF’s web productions: the camaraderie between friends, sophomoric humour, and pop philosophy from mentors and pseudo-mentors. But what makes Hostel Daze an instantly recognisable TVF joint is the emotional throughline of the yearning of its characters to carve out an identity for themselves in an ocean of millions.
The Viral Fever, founded by Indian Institute of Technology alumni, and the first production house to kickstart the streaming content boom in India, has naturally gravitated towards standing out in a competitive field, just like their characters.
This began with the cult line “Tu kya hai?” (What/who are you?) from one of TVF’s earliest hits, Pitchers. When a drunk Naveen is whining about being disregarded in his nine-to-five job and opens up about his plans to launch a startup, the avuncular Bhati asks him to define himself beyond his job designation. Bhati answers his own question: You are beer and the bottle holding it is your company. Once you leave the bottle, you can get into any glass.
The adolescents in season one of Hostel Daze similarly want to be regarded as special. Bhati-like chaps abound in Hostel Daze and other TVF productions such as Kota Factory and Aspirants.
Kota Factory follows eleventh and twelfth standard students struggling to gain admission to an Indian Institute of Technology. Aspirants does the same with those with an eye on the civil service as a key to the good life. While Kota Factory has Jeetu bhaiyya as its resident Yoda, Aspirants has Sunil bhaiyya.
TVF’s expertise in packaging small-town and middle-class youthful angst as bildungsromans makes it a one-stop John Hughes for the Quora generation. Despite similar set-ups, they hit bull’s eye again and again, with topics as seemingly mundane as the life of an entry-level corporate employee in Cubicles.
What has also helped TVF in making this style of storytelling its own is its origins as a YouTube channel for sketch comedies and spoofs. Their shows aren’t plot-driven as much as intimately observed moments strung together by a one-line story. This type of writing helps accentuate the minutiae of formative years spent on the campus or in the workplace.
The distinctive dazed-and-confused slacker humour is also an aspect TVF has cracked better than their competitors. It goes back to their sketches about young adults: Chai Sutta Chronicles and Tech Conversations with Dad. The runtimes became longer with web series such as Inmates, Bachelors, and Insiders, all focused on teens and young adults.
TVF’s regular group of writers has carried over these formulae to other shows as well, such as Permanent Roommates, Yeh Meri Family and Gullak. While the first is about a live-in couple, the remaining are about families. The voiceover in the Gullak trailer puts forth TVF’s statement of purpose beautifully: this show isn’t a story at all, but a bunch of anecdotes.
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