What is the cost of An Engineered Dream in India? Watch this film if you are a student or parent striving for success in the Indian education ecosystem.
Author: Deepa Bajaj | July 1st 2019
As the new term starts for colleges soon, whether you want to study at IIT, AIIMS or IIM, a prestige Delhi University college, or just any good college in India, An Engineered Dream may be the film to watch for all young kids going to college this year and their parents. Two days ago, cutoffs for the premiere colleges of Delhi University have been announced at a bizarre 97% and above as the only criteria for most colleges.

For this 72-minute documentary, the director Hemant Gaba followed four IIT-JEE aspirants, who moved to the Rajasthani city of Kota for all day and night classes and slogging to power their way through the entrance exam. The trailer showcases the high pressure and intense Kota coaching class culture and how it affects the four of them and their parents.

Hemant Gaba actually went to Kota for research in 2016 for a fiction film but decided to make a documentary. As per Gaba, career decisions in India aren’t an individual’s choice. Parents, extended families and society at large groom the kids for a predestined career path of engineering or medical science. In addition, admission to prestigious colleges for these disciplines is highly competitive with an acceptance rate of less than 1%. Seeing what he saw, compelled him to pursue the subject. Finding co-producers in television networks NHK and MediaCorp via a successful pitch at Asian Pitch, he shot An Engineered Dream in 2016 and 2017. His previous films include his well-received debut with the feature film Shuttlecock Boys (2011) and documentary Japan in Nagaland (2015).

An Engineered​ Dream​ premiered at International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala 2018 a year ago where it won the Jury Prize for Best Long Documentary and has since done very well at the festival circuit. It was a nominee for the Audience Award in the Documentary Section at the Florence River to River Indian Film Festival 2018 and the Vesoul Asian Film Festival 2019, nominated for the Golden Kapok Award at the Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival, and has played at many more. ​It​ ​had its first ​wide release in Japan, premiering on TV on NHK on 26 September 2018. The documentary has since been broadcasted in Singapore (CNA), Taiwan (PTS), South Korea (KBS). In December 2018, AETN 18 acquired​ the​ Indian television rights of the film.

Kota Factory, a fictional series on the same topic was released by TVF on 16 April 2019, where at least three team members are IIT graduates themselves.

If you've not heard much about Kota's rise to become an educational hub, more than 200,000 teenagers in Kota live in cubicle size rooms and study 15 hours a day to prepare for the entrance exam to top colleges. They do this for two consecutive years, sometimes three. It all started in the 80s with an engineer who suffered from paralysis started to give tuitions to make both ends meet. That was VK Bansal, behind the now famed Bansal Classes Pvt. Ltd.

The pressure is intense is an understatement. With the previously mentioned acceptance rate of less than 1%, 99% of students are destined to fail. Many who come never leave their tiny rooms. ​More than 75,000 students committed suicide between 2007-2016. In 2017, several hostels in Kota decided to attach sensors and alarms to ceiling fans after a string of suicides. What is it about living in Kota that could leave someone in such despair? Why do they sacrifice themselves at the altar of ‘An Engineered Dream’?

Is India largely a society and system geared to not allow individuals to find their own dreams? Some of us might not even want big money or success​. Success itself​ might mean something else to us. Perhaps, this documentary is made in the hope for at least some to see and be ok with finding their own dream. Life is bigger than us. It can surprise us no matter what we plan to do with it.

And there is no better time for India to be watching it than now.​ ​History Channel is broadcasting a 48-min TV version of An Engineered Dream in India on next Monday, 8 July 2019. Add it to your watchlist.
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