Set in 2031, OK Computer, touted as India’s first sci-fi comedy follows Sajaan Kundu (Vijay Varma), ACP Indian Cyber Cell of Goa on his quest to solve a homicide allegedly committed by a robot.
The future is pretty kooky
In case you’ve wondered what the not-so-distant future will look like, picture this: humans will share space with robots, cabs will be driven by AIs and vending machine ‘maushis’ will dispense stuff. Holograms of cops will direct traffic, act as crime scene barriers, drones hawking a variety of wares will buzz overhead and everything will go beep-boop in order to remind you that you’re in the future. This story is set in motion when a self-driving car owned by Ziply, a billion-dollar tech corporate giant, is involved in a hit-and-run. Kundu arrives on the crime scene and based on the evidence, deems it to be a murder. Just as he’s about to take the car into custody, AI behavioural scientist and robot hugger Laxmi Suri (Radhika Apte) intervenes.
As the investigation proceeds, we’re introduced to AJEEB (Ullash Mohan), a robot that sounds like a petulant child and was created to serve as India’s technological messiah. AJEEB helps out in times of crisis and can do no wrong. Eventually, AJEEB develops a conscience, has an existential crisis, decides he wants to be a stand-up comedian, is declared rogue by the government and kicked off his virtual pedestal by the masses. AJEEB emerges as the prime suspect of the case and Kundu is hell-bent on proving his guilt. Even as he locks horns with AJEEB supporters Suri, his partner Inspector Monalisa Paul (Kani Kusruti) and his boss DCP Durga Chandra Prasad (Vibha Chibber), Ziply, a corporate behemoth enters the picture. Kundu shines his spotlight of suspicion on Ziply’s enigmatic CEO Cyrus Noor Xerxes (CNX). CNX has been absent from the public eye for 20 years and is represented by a holographic bear called Bhalu. Quirkier characters are added to the fray in the form of Pushpak Shakur (Jackie Shroff), the head of Jigyasa Jagruti Manch (JJM), an anti-robot eco-terrorist organisation whose floral outfits are modelled after the robes of the Ku Klax Klan. What starts out as a whodunit evolves into an allegorical saga on how minorities (represented by AIs) will always be treated unfairly and the importance of protecting their rights.
This comedy is not everyone’s cup of tea
Shot in a mockumentary style akin to The Office and Modern Family, this show tries to be many things at the same time – comedy, sci-fi, thriller, drama – and in the process, fails to tell a cohesive story. In an effort to be comedic, the writers sprinkle quirkiness and idiosyncrasies very liberally, resulting in an absolutely bonkers end-product. Shakur’s character comments on how the Indian government had promised better jobs, cheaper medicare and Smart Cities but only succeeded in delivering false news and intruding upon privacy and democratic rights. The characters act zany, especially during serious moments, and indulge in silly banter for no reason except to remind you that this is a quirky comedy.
Tens across the board
Varma, playing an Amol Palekaresque character is pitch-perfect as a socially inept investigator. Apte plays Suri as an earnest, no-nonsense person stuck amidst the madcap frenzy very effortlessly. Kusruti is bang on as the deadpan, befuddled Paul who makes us giggle whenever she’s on-screen. Among the others, Bhattacharjee’s creepy corporate act as CNX’s enforcer who’s weirdly obsessed with Suri as well as Dugal’s cameo as Satoshi, AJEEB’s inventor are stand-outs. The biggest disappointment is the poor use of Shroff, who is reduced to a special appearance despite having the most magnetic on-screen presence. We would love to watch more of the Pushpak Shakur show.
WATCH OR NOT
If you want to really enjoy comedy sci-fi, pick up Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its various adaptations over this pav bhaji.
Director: Neil Padegar, Pooja Shetty
Cast: Vijay Varma, Radhika Apte, Kani Kusruti, Jackie Shroff, Rasika Dugal, Vibha Chibber, Sarang Sathaye, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar