Creators: Puja Sheti, Neil Pagedar
Directors: Puja Sheti, Neil Pagedar
Screenwriters: Puja Sheti, Neil Pagedar, Anand Gandhi
Starring: Vijay Varma, Radhika Apte, Kani Kusruti, Jackie Shrof, Ratnabali Bhatacardji, Vibha Chibar, Rasika Dougal
Streaming on: Disney + Hotstar
On the one hand, OK Computer, wrongly marketed as the first science fiction comedy in India, is the wet dream of the ambitious artist. Complete creative control. Uncompromising vision. Painful detail. Flexible budgets. Complex construction of the world. No corporate intervention. Without rules. Tonal mixing. Philosophical whataboutery. The cinematic equivalent of children with wide-open eyes who are asked to paint a castle full of white walls in colors of their choice. The ultimate free hand. The daring six-episode series – based in futuristic India, where human intelligence is at odds with artificial intelligence – leaves no stone unturned to suggest that storytelling is a brutally selfish process. It is a miracle that something of this scale and shape exists. Then props to the team that seems to have done exactly what it wants to do in a country that does not want novelty and individualism. Not if, no but, only nuts.
On the other hand, OK Computer is a warning tale of creative freedom. This is inanimate, slow-breathing evidence of why Studio Costumes is paid to limit idealistic directors to the pure tightness of the MBA’s brain. From beginning to end, for almost 240 minutes, I have seldom seen anything so determined to look like shameless and concise nonsense of acid. It was as if Charlie Kaufman had been held hostage in Versova’s ideas lab, erased from memory and forced to scratch a live action. The Jetsonites in dark darkness – which, contrary to the perception of cinephiles, is not as authorial or attractive as it sounds. They say the line between genius and pretentiousness is thin, but this series turns that line into a full-fledged national line built by filmmakers to keep audiences.
The premise of OK Computer revolves around (and round) a police investigation into the death of an anonymous man whose body was crushed by a self-driving taxi. The setting is tricky: Goa, a tourist haven often fetishized for being in the past, is now in the future. (This is 2031, and naturally driven cars are something in a place where locals are too relaxed to drive alone). The questions facing the AKP are Saajan Kundu (Vijay Varma) and the empathic robot Laksmi Suri (Radhika Apte): Is it a coincidence or a murder? Was Nikhil (the car) hacked by a shadow corporation, an eco-terrorist cult, or did he just grow up with his own conscience? What is the bigger game behind this conspiracy against robots? Why is everyone so imperceptibly weird?
For reasons best attributed to Stoner’s humor, the man whose face was liquefied by the “incident” is unofficially called Pav Badji. For the same reasons, much of the first episode – certainly one of the most alienating, annoying and confusing pilots in modern television history – is at the crime scene, where we learn about the “three laws of robotics” and that Saajan and Lakshmi have a story where the assistant of Saajan from Malayala (Kani Kusruti) is established as a “comic relief” and where the viewer thinks that OK Computer is also documentary: an unfortunate fact that not only gives these characters a license to break the fourth wall and explain the aerial technical elements of building the world, but also to behave all eccentric and sitcom as if they were The office and Development in stagnation rejects. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if they’re talking to us or to themselves, or to each other, which I guess the creators may betray as a deliberate intellectual deception or something.
The rest of the series passes like a fever-induced dream: a former rescue robot named Ajeeb (which means “weird”, which is an understatement) returns from the desert to become the main culprit, he speaks as Wall- E became Parsi’s retiree, forever naked Jackie Shrof appears as a strange cult leader, Saajan’s strict boss replaces swearing with cooing (dear “yaanu” “baby”) during her noises, the hologram of a talking bear (?) pops up unexpectedly, a mysterious billionaire named CNX is mentioned many times, Saajan takes his bits from a corpse sandwich, quoting the rule of 5 seconds, Rasika Dougal appears with not two but four pigtails, the robot Ajeeb suffers from depression and becomes a comedian in a stand, Shekhar Kapoor makes the most absurd cameo in the last memory (surpassing Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra in Dear Maya) and last but not least, Saajan turns into an animal in a VR game to search for the inventor of Ajeeb. It’s as if the whole series is an extensive joke, and the viewer is an undocumented exile. So much for his witty political metaphors. I’m sorry to tell you that I didn’t invent any of this. And this is just the tip of the iceberg (which is sinking the Titanic). The bridge between David Davan and David Lynch is so blurred that I can’t even finish this thought.
Worst of all OK Computer is not only untouchable, but also extravagant to crushing minds. I applaud the actors – especially presenters like Vijay Varma and Radhika Apte – for consistently pushing the envelope, but this is perhaps the worst case scenario in terms of restless ambition. It is almost tragic to feel their sincerity in a series whose novelty on paper was perhaps best limited to the pages of a graphic novel for young adults. There is so much belief in the inconsistency of the screen that I tried, I really did it to find out if it was me or the show that was defective. Maybe I was to blame. Maybe I’m the problem. Obviously, the whole experience felt like gas. I wondered how such a well-thought-out universe — robots, holograms, laws, graphics, design — could choose to adopt the discarded language of the internet skate. Why let all the hard work – to escape the genre traps, the tradition, the form, the fable – turn into a ridiculous, surreal, patronizing parody of a culture that is already a satire on itself? When did engagement become a boring job against transactions?
When creators try to have fun with science fiction and confuse a perfectly good platform, the irony of their journey is best encapsulated by a single image. Remember when the fish of Finding Nemo cunningly escaped from the dentist’s aquarium to land in the vast ocean in insulated plastic bags before one of them asked, “Now what?” No one has thought outside the immediacy of independence. This is a question OK Computer posing within the first fifteen minutes. We already know the answer. It’s not nice. Of course, I can give estimates of intent, but what if these marks become marks of execution?