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Die Trying review: Kenny Sebastian’s Amazon show is a middle finger to middle-class Indian establishment

Die Trying review: Kenny Sebastian plays Kenny Sebastian in Kenny Sebastian’s first Amazon show, about two mediocre musicians trying to make their dreams come true. It’s good.

tv Updated: Feb 14, 2018 20:43 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Die Trying,Die Trying review,Kenny Sebastian
Kenny Sebastian plays Kenny Sebastian in Amazon’s Die Trying, created by Kenny Sebastian.

Die Trying
Cast - Kenneth Sebastian, Vidyuth Gargi, Adarsh Gaurav, Saundarya Jayachandran
Rating - 3.5/5

Every culture has its own version of the slacker sitcom, presumably because every culture has its own version of slackers. Subtle nuances aside, they’re the sort of guys who drool on futons, who smear grease on PlayStation controllers and they communicate in monosyllabic grunts. They have dreams – everyone does – but life keeps getting in the way. So tomorrow, they tell themselves, “We’ll start tomorrow.”

Kenny Sebastian’s new Amazon show, Die Trying, is modeled after too many slacker sitcoms to list here – it’s about two guys, who tend to stay indoors, who do not appear to have friends besides each other – but there’s one key difference. Kenny – that’s his character’s name too – and his best friend, Rohan are in a band. Pfff, you’re thinking, everyone’s in a band. But that’s where you’re wrong. Kenny & Rohan have earned the right to be called a band. They’ve met the first condition: Having more than one member. Their band has two. Those two.

They’re singing about urination.

And while the show they’re in might be populated with characters straight out of slacker comedy – the sort we see in stuff such as Workaholics or Broad City or, to make a deep cut, Spaced, the Simon Pegg and Nick Frost show that launched their careers. But unlike the guys in those shows, who are happy just kicking it with recreational drugs, Kenny & Rohan have dreams of making it big. They’re the outliers in their own story.

For the longest time, we’ve been told that every comedian’s ultimate dream – after years of bombing in clubs and corporate parties – was to have their own sitcom, preferably with their own name on it. We’ve seen Seinfeld and Louie, and to dispel a common misconception, people outside John Mulaney’s family have in fact seen Mulaney. Crashing, the new Pete Holmes show on HBO is among the best stand-up comedy shows ever. It’s almost a right of passage for a successful comic to star in their own show. So it’s surprising (in a pleasant way, mostly), and rather impressive, that for Die Trying, Kenny Sebastian didn’t automatically gravitate towards what he knows best – comedy – but chose to tell the story of two best friends trying to become great musicians.

Of course, there’s a lot in common between music and comedy – in a nutshell, our country respects neither. Being a musician or a comedian is seen as a profession you’d try – mostly to stay true to yourself – until you inevitably fail and get an MBA instead. In the Indian middle-class – which is the world in which Kenny is most comfortable – kids dream about coming out of their artistic closets with the same trepidation as their actual dreams. They understand that to reveal your artistic side will likely get you a stern talking to about accounts and the stock market and masculinity. We’re sort of united that way, as a nation.

Kenny is thinking about smoothies here.

Die Trying is set in Bangalore, circa 2004 – which, looking back, was a pivotal moment in our history – and through the course of seven episodes, establishes itself as one of the finer Indian sitcoms produced in this period of great glut. To be fair, we, as a nation, have bigger problems than having to deal with an overwhelming number of mediocre web content, so we shouldn’t be complaining about this now, especially since just two years ago, there was, Biblically speaking, nothing. But Die Trying is hardly mediocre. It’s a consistently well-written show. It follows the British model of quality over quantity, and milks Kenny’s nice-guy act to the last drop. He’s got that affable Kumail Nanjiani-vibe down pat.

Kenny Sebastian has perfected the inoffensive brand of comedy.

It’s difficult to pin-point exactly who’s responsible for this – it’s a typically Indian thing, to have separate credits for dialogue and screenplay and story – but since Die Trying is ‘created by’ Kenny Sebastian, let’s just go with him, shall we? He makes it work, despite all the obvious hurdles, which is a roundabout way of saying that the show would have greatly benefitted from some more money – Naveen Richard’s wig in one scene is noticeably fake, and I’m going to put this out there, there’s a scene that involves a slice of black forest pastry, and I’m guessing they just bought the one slice.

But this amateurish aesthetic adds to the show’s charm. We’ve reached a point where some of the bigger AIB sketches have Bollywood-level production quality (not to mention Bollywood-level stars). While Die Trying might not have its finger on the pulse quite as pointedly as some of their stuff, it isn’t supposed to. It follows in the tradition of Kenny’s comedy, making keen observations about male friendship and, slightly controversially, even male entitlement.

Watch the Die Trying trailer here

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: Feb 14, 2018 13:19 IST