Creator: Sameer Saxena
Cast: Sumeet Vyas, Maanvi Gagroo, Amol Parashar, Kunaal Roy Kapoor, Nidhi Bisht, Gajraj Rao, Shweta Tripathi
Available On: SonyLIV & TVF Play
The easy thing to write is: The second season of TVF Tripling is yet another light, breezy road-tripping saga doubling up as a dysfunctional siblings dramedy. But Tripling Season 2 is as emotionally lazy as its predecessor: It is in fact yet another unambitious, modest Indian tourism advert doubling up as a self-serious spoof on family bonds. The show seems to be content with three good young actors, endless cross-generational banter, an excuse to drive across India and a city-per-episode format.
If nothing, the sponsors stay happy with the clumsy product-placement nods. The first season sees Chandan (Sumeet Vyas), Chitvan (Amol Parashar) and Chanchal (Maanvi Gagroo) embark upon an accidental road trip – in a Tiago that finds reason to be mentioned/framed at least once every episode – from Mumbai to Manali through Jaipur and Bhatinda. This time, they go from Delhi to Lucknow to Kolkata to Sikkim – in a Drive Z Smart Commute car that finds reason to be mentioned at least twice an episode – because of a recycled Tigmanshu Dhulia storyline involving a missing Rajasthani Prince, an evil sister-in-law and a casual manhunt. The premise is limited to its characterization: Chandan is still the uptight oldest, Chitvan the "dude bro" youngest, and Chanchal the exasperated middler.
Season 2 kicks off with a The Haunting Of Hill House setup – Chandan is now an author whose best-selling first book (Tripling, obviously) has caused great unrest to his estranged siblings. There is something at stake now, which means that the general airiness of the journey is even more designed, more manufactured. Each adventure is custom-made, as if the sole purpose of the three adult siblings were to merely disrupt ongoing (geographically diverse) stories before moving onto the next one. And in each of them, nostalgia is an overarching emotion – the old-school Nawab (Gajraj Rao) and his antique palace and pigeon-messengers in Lucknow, Rajit Kapur reprising his '90s Byomkesh Bakshi role as an eccentric out-of-work detective in Kolkata, a quaint Buddhist monastery in Gangtok. The marriage of these two common coming-of-age genres is hardly surprising. Creator Sameer Saxena was behind the nostalgia porn of the '90s summer-vacation series Yeh Meri Family, while co-writer Akarsh Khurana directed Karwaan, a similar road-trip drama with a reformed corporate slave (Dulquer Salmaan), a man-child friend (Irrfan Khan) and a manic-pixie girl (Mithila Palkar) on the run. The narrative obsessions of the two creators merge here to lend Tripling a sort of plasticky, formulaic tone that might have long outlived its time.
Here's why. Back in 2016, Tripling released when this frothy, skit-like treatment was still novel. TVF operated on a smooth first-mover basis along with AIB, whose focus revolved around short-form content and witty Bollywood parodies. Permanent Roommates, Tripling and Pitchers thrived on socio-observant writing and relatable themes rather than elaborate plot-lines or dense messages. In 2019, post the Amazon Prime and Netflix influx, especially with the release of Made In Heaven and Delhi Crime in the last month, the digital landscape has visibly shifted. The bar has been raised. Yet, with titles like Yeh Meri Family, Flames and Tripling, TVF has remained adamant on being the "childhood flashback" sequence in the slow-burning adulthood of the Indian web-series landscape. It has remained stubbornly loyal to its own start-up sensibilities – a deliberate throwback to simpler, less competent times. It counts on the fact that there might perhaps still be a section of viewers who, overwhelmed by the narrative mushrooming of the new medium, craves for the young DIY vignettes of 2016.
The incessant integration of '90s pop-culture references into these shows more or less reflects the nostalgia of these viewers; the TVF target audience still consists of a generation that woke up to the potential of digital long-form storytelling. "Potential," being the keyword here. As a result, the sober "life" sequences – in which the siblings abandon the goofiness and deliver sermons to one another – feel awkward and staged. Almost as if a black-and-white talkie were hoping to age gracefully by digitally colouring the skin-tone of its protagonists. Almost as if a child, riddled with the fear of being left behind, is trying to speak in the booming baritone of a troubled adult. Maybe the writers need a real road trip.