Self-described as India’s first Science Fiction comedy, OK Computer is something new and brave that may not be for everyone.
OK Computer is set in the year 2031. In this new age, India is a leader in the field of science and technology. There are holograms, artificial intelligence, and robots.
The series follows Saajan Kundu (Vijay Verma), a no-nonsense Assistant Commissioner of Police who has recently been transferred to the Cyber Crime Cell of Goa. Sparring with him and to balance his distaste for robots, is Laxmi Suri (Radhika Apte) — a passionate activist fighting for robots, from PETER (People for the Ethical Treatment of Every Robot).
Trouble begins when an unidentifiable man, affectionately called ‘Pav Bhaji’ due to his severe disfigurement, is found trampled by a self-driving car, Nikhil, who leaves an ominous message, “they are coming” before ‘dying’.
There are many players in this world who could be connected to this — Ajeeb (Ullas Mohan), the world’s first conscious artificial intelligence who stopped solving world problems to pursue a career in stand-up comedy, Pushpak Shakur (Jackie Shroff), who is the leader of a cult, the multi-billion dollar conglomerate, ZIP, which makes these hack-proof self-driving cars, CNX, the mysterious owner of ZIP, or someone else entirely.
Suri and Kundu must solve this case which has much more going on than meets the eye.
Kani Kusruti stands out in this richly talented cast. She plays Monalisa Paul, the awkward and bumbling officer who hails from Kerela and dreams of being only an intern even in her fantasy. Her quirky, assertive yet clumsy performance fits in perfectly with the world in OK Computer. She is easily the funniest member of the cast.
Vijay Verma plays Saajan Kundu. Kundu has severe anger management issues and cannot function in a team. He hates robots and believes they will eventually run over humanity and conquer the Earth. Vijay Verma, who is usually brilliant in the roles he has been typecast in, is a miscast here. He tries a lot but his performance does not feel genuine or fits in with the show. His comic timing is also off.
Radhika Apte, plays Laxmi Suri, a foil to Saajan. Her love for robots matches Saajan’s disdain for them. She does not have many punchlines to begin with. Apte’s performance is also quite weak and lacking any depth although she does have a few good moments in the last few episodes where she has to take a take an adverse step.
Jackie Shroff plays Pushpak Shakur, the leader of Jigyasu Jagriti Manch, an anti-technology, anti-vaccine, anti-science, anti-gravity cult. Shroff is an absolute treat to watch. He captures the audience’s attention and never lets go. His eccentric performance is magnetic. OK Computer could have used more of him.
OK Computer derives its name from the revolutionary 1999 studio album by English band, Radiohead. The genius album predicts the change that would come with technology spreading into our lives and the havoc it would lead to.
The web series deals with similar themes but in a comic setting. Produced and written by Anand Gandhi, the writer-director of unprecedented films like Tummbad and Ship of Theseus, the series aims high. It has fantastic ideas and concepts that create an offbeat, never-seen-before world.
The series references absurdist and existential philosophies. Issac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are always in the limelight. The series is a treasure mine for viewers that like finding references and Easter eggs.
It is brave and not afraid to be its own thing even at the cost of alienating audiences. It contains a surprising amount of animation too.
OK Computer tries its hand at satire as well with a lot of socio political commentary which is usually not heavy handed.
The production design of the series is its strongest point. OK Computer is clearly made on a relatively low budget. Despite that, the production design by Gauri Tiwari and Prasoon Basu stands out and, in fact, excels.
The cinematography and colours bring out the best in the screenplay. The music of the series by Gabriel Prokofiev is one of the stronger aspects. It sounds different than most soundtracks out there.
OK Computer’s ideas, though imaginative and ingenious, suffer in their execution. This is Neil Pagedar and Pooja Shetty first directorial venture. The duo had previously worked on Tumbbad with Anand Gandhi. This time the three of them wrote together but something is amiss.
The writing tries too hard. It is confused and is inconsistent. The comedy does not feel natural but rather uses formulas and tropes that the audience can see was supposed to make them laugh but fail because of the poor execution by both the directors and the actors.
It also seems that the writers were more comfortable writing in English as a lot of dialogue seems to have been translated to Hindi from popular English phrases.
The high concept, poor execution and translated dialogues are reminiscent of the Amazon Prime series, Afsos. Afsos got away with it relatively unscathed because of its simpler storyline. Since OK Computer is set in such a radically different world, it needs to be explained. Such exposition is delivered in big chunks quite lazily. This seems to be the only reason why the show adopts a mockumentary format out of nowhere.
The show also lacks tension and intrigue that even a crime comedy should have. Progress is made in the case effortlessly and by using new information that comes to light instead of actual twists and turns, non-reliant on deus ex-machina.
Ajeeb, the first sentient robot, grows on you with time, but for a good part of the series, it is intolerable.
OK Computer is unlike anything made in India but regular audiences will find themselves disconnected. The series starts slow but picks up steam by the end and even manages to pull at your heartstrings.
It is only for those people who enjoy science fiction and are open to more experimental cinema.