Aspirants is just the latest in a long line of success stories for The Viral Fever, popularly known as TVF, that has been making a mark in the Indian entertainment space, one show at a time.
Started in 2010 — much before streaming platforms redefined the desi entertainment scape — TVF was launched to cater to a key demographic — young adults — that, courtesy the onslaught of saas-bahu soaps, no longer tuned in to television. However, the quality and relatability of the content that TVF started generating made its popularity cut across ages, with its videos, covering the gamut of Indian politics, challenging archaic social concepts and spoofing movies and lifestyle, finding a host of takers.
Today, TVF, which has a whopping 9.89 million subscribers on YouTube, also churns out winners for streaming platforms, some recent successful cases being Panchayat and Hostel Daze on Amazon Prime Video, Kota Factory on Netflix and Gullak on SonyLIV.
Often cited as the pioneer of the web series boom in India, TVF has given us some cult shows — Permanent Roommates to Pitchers, Barely Speaking with Arnub to Tripling — that continue to demand a watch and rewatch.
“The idea at TVF has always been to come up with original content that strikes a chord with the Indian audience. Whether it’s family, relationships or the difficulties of college life, the shows and videos have always been refreshing and yet relatable,” actor Sumeet Vyas — who shot into the spotlight with TVF shows like Permanent Roommates and Tripling, and even co-wrote the latter — had said in an earlier interview. Permanent Roommates, that dropped in 2014, became the second most-viewed long-form web series in the world by June 2015.
Sumeet is not the only popular face to make inroads into the Indian entertainment world through TVF. Jitendra Kumar, more popular as Jeetu, became an overnight sensation on the back of his memorable characters like Jeetu, Munna, Jazbaati Gittu and Kejriwal in a host of popular TVF sketches. Pitchers — the story of four engineer friends (Jeetu and Naveen Kasturia played two of them) who quit their jobs to invest in a start-up company — found resonance among hordes of upwardly mobile young Indians looking to do much more than just their mundane corporate jobs.
“When we started making shows at TVF, I would invariably end up playing an engineer. So, the experiences shown in those sketches, not technical experiences, but those of the character with his father and friends, were pretty helpful because they had happened in my life. The makers also gained from my experiences as an engineer when they sat down to write those sketches. In Pitchers, I played a coder who started off in a corporate set-up and shifted to a start-up. I have some experience of working in a corporate job, and I drew on the experiences of friends who worked in start-ups and knew coding… I spent days talking to them and would then pass on those inputs to the writers. The makers themselves were engineers and the authenticity we brought in worked a lot with the audience,” Jeetu, who studied civil engineering at IIT Kharagpur only to later discover his love for acting, tells The Telegraph. Jeetu has of course been the face of smash-hit TVF offerings like Kota Factory and Panchayat.
It’s courtesy his work with TVF that Jeetu is today ‘Jeetu bhaiya’ for everyone. “Everyone thinks I am exactly like the characters I play. All the characters I have played so far have been relatable, so that could be one reason. A friend just told me that his mom had texted him saying, ‘Screen pe Jeetu aisa lagta hai ki apna hi beta ho’,” the actor had told The Telegraph in an earlier interview.
In 2016, TVF released Tripling — the story of three warring siblings (played by Sumeet Vyas, Amol Parashar and Maanvi Gagroo) who embark on a tenuous road trip. A recipient of many awards, including an Asian Television Award, Tripling made stars out of its actors — Sumeet, Maanvi and Amol have all graduated to Bollywood — with a second season dropping in 2019. Barely Speaking with Arnub had TVF regular Biswapati Sarkar, who also pitches in with a lot of the writing, bringing the house down with his impersonation of news anchor Arnab Goswami. The show kicked off with a hilarious tete-a-tete with none other than Shah Rukh Khan, with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal making an appearance in one episode. The widely applauded Humorously Yours — a semi-autobiographical take on the life of a stand-up comic — has also been a winner from TVF.
“I love it when people say that we are the path makers and trendsetters. TVF was for sure!” Maanvi Gagroo tells The Telegraph. And TVF, with a show or a sketch to touch upon everything that we face in life, has truly been a frontrunner — and continues to be so — in the diverse and unending space of Indian entertainment. More importantly, unlike streaming platforms, the content on TVF’s YouTube channel doesn’t demand a subscription fee. Now if that isn’t win-win, what is?
Barely Speaking with Arnub
Pictures: Sourced by the correspondent