The phrase “Lakhon Mein Ek” usually has positive connotations and is used for someone with unique skills. It is also a phrase that best describes an average Indian high-school science student preparing for engineering entrance examinations, someone who is quite literally just another student amongst the 14.5 lakh students that try to get into something that has much fewer seats than that. Clever choice of words from the makers of this new Amazon Original show, which showcases the tale of one such engineering student.
The show begins promisingly. The story of students being forced to pursue engineering is all too familiar, it’s also something most of the viewers can empathise with and are probably waiting for it to be told to a larger audience, and Lakhon Mein Ek does justice to the story for most of the part. It manages to show a mirror to the ridiculous process of preparing for an entrance examination. The hostels which take students’ time for granted, the institutes which are nothing but chambers of hell for anyone with an iota of interest outside that of academics. The weird class system followed by coaching institutes across the country where intelligent students are milked with better teachers, better facilities and more attention (they’re after all the poster boys which these institutes would tout in newspapers after they get selected for great colleges), and the less intelligent folk are left behind in destitute conditions where teachers don’t care to teach and the management doesn’t care what they make of themselves. It’s all a part of the show’s extremely real setup.
The central characters are well written and relatable, we’ve all witnessed them in the classroom at some or the other point in time. The show also benefits from good casting. Ritwik Sahore as Aakash (the focus of the show) is the perfect fit for the role. His acting strength really shows in he’s required to pull off a nuanced and layered performance in the later half of the series. Shiv Kumar Subramanyam as Moorthy (the institute’s head) is dependable in the corrupt but in-power official role, something that he’s accomplished multiple times in his career. Alam Khan and Jay Thakkar get to play the supporting roles and are fairly good at that. Khan’s sponteinity makes for many a-engaging moments in the first few episodes.
Biswa infuses the show with a greatly detailed setup. From the characters attire, to the topics being tought in class, notice how, as the show begins students are studying the concepts of frame of reference, but midway they’re being tought more advanced concepts like Fluid Mechanics. The usual suspects like NCERT Physics books and HC Verma also make an appearance. The hostel conditions and the classroom environment are all true too. All points to the show makers for getting the setting spot on.
There’s also this binge-worthy ness to this twenty-five minute per episode format. The makers manage to end the show at a cliffhanger on all occasions, making it absolutely essential to at least peak at the next in series. I watched five of the six episodes in a sitting (roughly 2 hours)
While the first three episodes of Laakhon Mein Ek are great. The story begins to take some hyperbolic turns as the series moves into the later half. Trivial issues like ‘cheating’ end up forming the genises of much more serious turns that the show takes, and by the end of the show, the writing is all over the place. There’s a sub-plot about a dengue epidemic, a sub plot on drug abuse and student bullying, another one about Aakash’s mental health. There’s just too much in a span of 3 episodes to pay any proper attention to and in the end many of the subplots are left dangling and unfinished. And while most of the characters are well written, the character of Chandrakant is particularly one dimensional. He’s never really given the screen time to look ‘real’. All his character is reduced to is the studious guy who pops in to create trouble.
Minor issues notwithstanding, Laakhon Mein Ek is a great show. Definitely one of the best Indian series I’ve seen in a long time. At just 6 episodes, each of them only 25 minutes, the show doesn’t ask for your atttention any longer than it should. Beautifully edited, written and directed, Biswa Kalyan Rath’s first series as a director is worth watching.
Rating : *** ½