Hostel Daze Season 2, On Amazon Prime Video, Is An Amusing, Affectionate Portrait Of Hostel Life, Film Companion
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Directed by: Amir Musanna and Sangram Naiksatam
Written by: Suprith Kundar and Harish Peddinti
Cinematography: Hari K. Vedantam
Edited by: Arunava Basu Roy Chaudhuri
Cast: Adarsh Gourav, Luv Vispute, Ahsaas Channa, Nikhil Vijay and Shubham Gaur
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Like every TVF show, Hostel Daze 2 is the nostalgic uncle who refuses to let the party subside. It only remembers the fun times. Every episode is a new anecdote. Episode 1: Bhai log, remember the time we ragged those juniors and got summoned by the DISCO (Disciplinary Committee)? Episode 2: Yaaro, remember the time Jaat and Jhantoo fell for the same girl – what was her name, something to do with progress, Unnati no? Episode 3: Boss, remember the time our resident stud Ankit pretended to be a cleanliness freak to impress Akanksha? Episode 4: Arre, remember the time everyone except Jhantoo went home for the holidays? No no, have one more peg, it’s too early to crash. Wifey will anyway say my mouth stinks. Episode 5: Wait, there was no Episode 5? What you saying, bro? 

This begs the question(s): Why, then, does Hostel Daze 2 look more organic than the other TVF college shows? There’s not a single conflict, so why does it still feel so breezy, harmless, crude, funny and…right? Why does the Selective Memory Syndrome (SMS) – a pressing problem with other TVF productions – not look like a total copout here? In short, why is Hostel Daze specifically about what it reveals and not about what it eliminates? I suppose the answer lies in the title itself. The hostel culture is like that. It’s where comedy can exist without the survival guilt of tragedy. The space is an awakening – social, sexual, cultural – for young adults. At a broader level, it’s a sanctuary after the shackles of home: kids can cut loose, be themselves and grow the way they choose to without being judged by the gatekeepers of their world. The freedom is exhilarating. But at a micro level, it’s also the one space students can blow off steam after confronting the pressures of classrooms all day. It’s where everybody shares the same emotion – respite – and finds solace in one another. A hostel represents the intervals of nothingness dotting the cinematic stakes of the rat race. The story is that there’s no story. There’s no filter, no control, just a constant building of crisis bonds. 

But one can still argue: Why does Season 2 not have any references to the engineering course and its associated stresses? Where are the all-nighters, the scrambling for notes? For one, virtually every other TVF series is based in that universe. This is the living part of studying: not necessarily exclusive but still isolated enough. And secondly, it learns from the follies of Season 1. The few false notes had featured exam shenanigans, which felt like a colour-corrected rehash of Kota Factory, as well as some insensitive jokes about student suicides (a character curses a paper-leak because he’s already written half his suicide note). This time around, there are no such issues; the humour refuses to concern the academic parts at all. Instead, it celebrates as well as spoofs the excesses of campus life: An anti-ragger is shamed by professors, the messiness of rooms stimulates romantic compatibility, a boy shows up for a (rare) date in wedding attire, the kids suffer from a hostel version of PTSD when home for the holidays. 

Having said that, some elements are clearly compensatory – almost an apology for being unapologetic. For instance, the Gullak-style voiceover device continues here. The adults in the setting – a professor, a cricket coach, a laundryman and the warden – break the fourth wall and provide pearls of wisdom in each episode. But their words aren’t just there to give context and real-world metaphors to the viewers. (The cricket ones are particularly oversmart). They also seem designed to be the show’s insurance policy against criticism. If anyone accuses the makers of endorsing the toxic parts of hostel life – ragging, porn addiction, sexism – these adults are meant to be the in-house foils. In the first episode, a professor explains to us the mentality of ragging (“the self-importance arising from making people plead is reflected in the way HR managers and religion operate”). His voice sounds like a woke mid-film disclaimer, further evidenced in an entire sequence of reverse-ragging – where four boys are mercilessly ragged in a girls’ hostel, with a lot of swearing and words like “objectification” used wryly by the girls. The second episode similarly has a sports coach explain the technicalities of the bro code (and ‘sis code’), almost as if to appease those who might get offended by the template of two lewd boys wooing the same girl. The actual episode is admittedly funny and sparkles with coarse humour, but one can never be too careful if you’re an OTT streaming service these days. What Hostel Daze 2 tries to do, through the adults, is have its self-aware cake and eat it too: It stays wild while also rationalizing the wildness for a twitchy audience. 

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Fortunately, these morality checks aren’t too disruptive. I like that the titular gang of Hostel-3 is given an equal share of the screen time. The first season made it look like there was one hero (Adarsh Gourav, as Ankit “Dopa” Pandey) and the rest were his colourful friends. But all of them – the rustic Rupesh “jaat” Bhati (the excellent Shubham Gaur), the filthy Jatin “jhantoo” (a crowd-winning Nikhil Vijay), the nerdy Bansal (a hilarious Luv Vispute) – seem to be the protagonists of this season. (The last episode echoes this with a disarming line: “You all are the main leads of my life and I’m the Satish Kaushik”). That the makers also resist the temptation of highlighting a post-White Tiger Adarsh Gourav is admirable: he is the only one with a girlfriend track, though. 

The adults in the setting – a professor, a cricket coach, a laundryman and the warden – break the fourth wall and provide pearls of wisdom in each episode. They also seem designed to be the show’s insurance policy against criticism

There’s another elephant in the rooms of Hostel Daze. Naturally, there’s no mention of reservation (SC/ST) quotas, class or religious differences in these corridors. In another show – as was the case with Meena’s character in Kota Factory, for example – this might have been too convenient an oversight. But that’s the thing about hostels, too. Kids from every walk of life learn to share the same space and fear the same future. Nowhere else – certainly not in the latter stages of adulthood – might one see four disparate people like these form an unlikely bond. Ankit, Rupesh, Jatin and Bansal have nothing and everything in common. Where they come from barely matters, because they’ve joined forces to figure out where they’re going. The final episode mentions that Jhantoo is from Jhabua, a town largely composed of a tribal and lower-caste population. But that’s all it is – a passing piece of information that has nothing to do with who they are on hostel grounds. It may sound utopian, but there’s an element of truth to it. He’s the hostel skunk not because of his roots, but because of the image he chooses to adopt. 

Perhaps later in life, the hostelites might learn that they were being unwittingly casteist to Jatin by teasing him for his skin tone and lack of hygiene. They might feel like they were being classist by addressing Rupesh, who hails from a North Indian village, as a “dehati”. Or that they were fat-shaming Bansal. But at this moment, during these four years, these are empty puns coming from mouths that know no better, and from minds that don’t yet need to know any better. They’re the language of displacement. Political correctness can wait. My schoolmates, for instance, found it entertaining to address one another by their fathers’ names. Hostel Daze 2 gets that. It gets that, while it’s important to be informed, there’s a time and place for it. It gets that every educational institution has its own coping mechanism. It gets that banter is sometimes just that: banter. After all, none of the four adults mention this in their reparative monologues. They leave the reading – and laughing – to today’s trigger-happy viewer.

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