With a relatable storyline, stellar performances, and iconic dialogues, India’s first black-and-white web series, TVF Kota Factory, has become a crowd favorite, for showcasing an honest depiction of students’ lives in Kota.
Of course, like with any other web series, here too, the show’s success translated to fans sharing favorite dialogues and characters. And Jeetu bhaiya, and his gyaan, was a hot favourite.
But while Jitendra Kumar’s performance was definitely noteworthy, for me, the real emerging star from the show, was Ranjan Raj aka Balmukund Meena.
Ranjan Raj plays Meena, an extremely sincere student who becomes Vaibhav’s friend and confidante when Vaibhav moves to Kota. From helping Vaibhav navigate life in Kota, to standing by his side and urging him to move ahead in life, Meena is the definition of a true friend.
However, he is also the poster-child for the ‘class nerd’, who approaches studying and IIT prep with a single-minded focus. And while it would have been far too easy to get annoyed by his steadfastness, Meena only evokes sympathy and affection – thanks to Ranjan Raj’s brilliant act.
Most creators adopt the trope of ridiculing first-benchers to set up the lead character as a ‘cool guy’. Remember the Chatur-Rancho dynamic in 3 Idiots?
But Meena was not your regular ‘padhaku‘. Yes, he was sincere to the point of being a teachers’ pet, but his antics made him instantly likable. From his staunch support for Jeetu bhaiya’s reputation, to his struggle in dealing with lust and infatuation, Meena was more than just your average, first-bencher.
In fact, I actually looked forward to his one-liners in season 2. And at the end of both the seasons, I was left with just one thought – Meena is too pure for this world.
Of course, the credit for making Meena appear so endearing goes to actor Ranjan Raj and the show’s writers.
Raj, who actually made his acting debut in 2014 with the anthology, Shuruaat Ka Interval, is an IIT alumnus himself. But while he studied engineering, his heart was always set on acting.
Video bahut dekhta tha, bhai, chacha, mama ke mobile mein – Kapil Sharma ke, ya jaise Vijay Raaz ka Run picture se. Hum yeh sab dekh ke bade hue aur mind mein humein yeh sab bahut funny lagta thi, ki arey yeh toh hum bhi kar hi sakte hain. Toh humesha lagta tha ki yeh toh cheez hai… shuru se hi uske taraf thoda toh mind tha.
-Ranjan Raj to Digital Commentary
Originally hailing from Kurtha, Bihar, he has been a part of multiple popular movies, like Rustom, Chhichhore, Bala, etc.
But whether it’s a single scene in a feature film (Bala) or a full-fledged role in a web series (Kota Factory), Ranjan’s performance has been impossible to ignore.
He brings to his roles a beguiling sincerity that allows him to impress the audience, irrespective of the kind of character he plays, or the screen time awarded to him. Simply put, he is an actor to look out for. And we hope that he continues to get more and more chances to flex those acting muscles, and leave the audience impressed.