‘We were suffering from the sequel curse:’ Arunabh Kumar on Pitchers Season 2

The team behind the second season of Pitchers talks to Cinema Express ahead of the series’ premiere on December 23
A still from Arunabh Kumar's 'Pitchers.'
A still from Arunabh Kumar's 'Pitchers.'

It was 2015 and Netflix was still a year away from entering the Indian market. After trying their hands at guitars and DSLRs, youngsters, disillusioned by the corporate grind, were looking for a different passion to post about on social media. Startup wasn’t jargon anymore. The Viral Fever (TVF), or as they were then famously known as the Qtiyapa guys, were just a bunch of engineers making spoof videos. But their vision was becoming clear.

After the country’s first YouTube series, Permanent Roommates (2014), they came up with something that felt more personal. Pitchers, after its release, became the highest-rated Indian series on IMDb (then 9.8). Viewers were identifying with its protagonist Naveen’s dilemmas and Jeetu’s hilarious frustrations. But after the first instalment, the wait became longer and longer and stretched on to seven years. Even regular YouTube commenters had stopped asking for a second season below every TVF video.

“We were suffering from the curse of the sequel,” shares Arunabh Kumar, TVF founder and showrunner of Pitchers. The second season of the acclaimed series has found a new home on ZEE5 and will premiere on December 23. “The first one came out to be so good that we didn’t know how to go about the next. For some time, we froze, and then we decided to take time and write it well.” The show revolves around four working professionals-Naveen, Jeetu, Yogi and Mandal-who decide to quit their jobs and seek funding for their startup idea.

While the first season was about them building a team and pitching the idea to investors, the stakes are higher in the second and it seems to be laced with more internal conflicts. Moreover, fan-favourite Jeetu (Jitendra Kumar) is not seen in Season 2’s trailer. Although his absence is addressed, it still left viewers curious about his fate on the show. “Not just Jeetu, Shreya’s character played by Maanvi Gagroo is also part of the series and will always be. It’s just that in season 2 we had to cover certain things that happen in actual startups, like a founder quitting or taking a break,” explains Arunabh.

Not just absences, there are additions to the cast too. Ridhi Dogra plays Prachi, a venture capitalist who is reining in the startup boys. Sikandar Kher and Ashish Vidyarthi are also on the cast list, although their character details are still under wraps. “My friends went crazy when I told them I am doing Pitchers S2,” says Ridhi, who has projects like Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan and Tiger 3 with Salman Khan in the pipeline. “They started talking about the iconic ‘Tu Beer Hain’ line and then I understood the fandom of the series.”

In the show’s opening scene, Naveen Kasturia as Naveen is sitting with his college senior Bhati (a then-unknown Abhishek Banerjee) and lamenting about his corporate job. Bhati then gives him a pep talk worthy of being in a TedEx video. He tells Naveen that he is Beer and he needs to get out of the bottle if he needs to reach in different “glasses”. “I actually had this exact Bhati moment,” remembers Naveen. “I wanted to quit my corporate job, move to Mumbai and work in films but I wasn’t able to muster the courage. At a party, a friend’s sister narrated an interesting anecdote. She told me about a tribe, which when going to war on another island, burnt the ships after they reached the shore. For them, it was either fight or die, there was no running back. I realised I too had to quit to give acting my 100 per cent.”

Ridhi also had a story of leaving the corporate rut. “I was working in art direction and one day my boss said that he wanted something in a cherry tomato colour, and the one I had presented was not ‘red enough.’ At that moment, I realised I had to quit.” Arunabh ruminates for a while. “I won’t glamourise the quitting and the struggle,” he says. 

“There was a time I only had Rs 170 in my account. My friends were ADs on big projects, some had jobs at multinational companies. I, on the other hand, was working on a spoof video called Jha.2. There were tough times but I guess ultimately you have to balance between things you have to do, things you want to do and things you can do. I enjoy my 9 to 5 job as a storyteller,” he adds.

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