“Art transcends existence given time, that time is given by the perceptions of the people.”
A robot is a prime suspect in a society dependent on robots and technology, A cop who hates technology is tasked with the case and a woman who believes that the robot is innocent. This premise sounds like the premise of ‘I, Robot’ or a dozen of other sci-fi Hollywood flicks. This is the barebones premise of the series “Ok, Computer”, currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar and that’s where the similarities fortunately end.
Ok, Computer, is by far one of the most original takes on a futuristic sci-fi Indian society by the Industry executed to brilliant perfection. The series produced by Anand Gandhi, one of modern India’s most distinct filmmakers features the quirkiest roles essayed by the finest contemporary actors of our times.
Anand Gandhi, popularly known for 'Tumbbad' and 'Ship of Theseus'.
Stills of Vijay Varma, Radhika Apte and Jackie Shroff from the series.
Vijay Varma as the lead cop who has a bias against machines and technology is amazing and portrayed to perfection. Radhika Apte as an activist for the rights and proper treatment of robots is hilarious and is a perfect foil for Vijay Varma’s cop.
Kani Kusruti as a straight-faced, nervous and mumbling junior to Vijay Varma’s cop is a revelation, Rasika Duggal’s cameo is effective but by far the icing on the cake is the character of Jackie Shroff. Our bhidu lights up every frame available on the monitor and our eyes at the same time.
Ullas Mohan does a brilliant job as the voice of Ajeeb, the robot who’s the prime suspect.
Still from the series.
This article though is not a review of the series, greater critical minds will do a better job of dissecting this series, maybe. This isn’t about the critics though, this is about the audience.
This article is about how when the most commercialised industry of the country, accused of pandering to the masses on a general basis, puts out something so original in thought and brilliant in execution combined with a marketing campaign that is generally reserved for big-budget, star-driven films, the audience who’s asked them for exactly something like this ignores them. There’s no doubt in my mind that if Ok, Computer as a series would be more well-received and talked about if it featured characters and crew that were not Indian. If the series was set in Spain or Korea featuring the heartthrobs of Instagram and the Internet, then the most active voices on the internet would be singing praises of the series.
That may sound like an unjustified criticism but it is not. It is an observation based on the current trends of social media appreciation and the sheer frustration of not seeing people and more importantly established voices in the industry speak up about such a brilliant piece of art. The series does not fall short on any technical departments, the sound, editing, cinematography, production design and VFX departments all bring in their A-game. The execution is comparable to similar series of a foreign language. Indian movies and series have always been accused of adapting the west, with this series in mind, I think it’s time to ask the question as an audience to ourselves, Are we biased towards the West as an audience?
Because the series greatest success isn't the plot, the performances or the technical excellences of the crew. The series’s greatest success is the incredible world-building they have managed to achieve through light-hearted humour, genuine human moments and the clever use of VFX.
Disney+ Hotstar deserves a special mention and a pat on the back for backing this series and marketing it with utmost conviction and one could hope that they will continue backing such projects. Now, art is subjective. People who have watched Ok, Computer might not have the same favourable views as me on the series and that’s fine. Because without a doubt this series is just that, it’s not just a labour of love much like every other film, it is a genuine work of art that deserves to be talked about or at least watched by every one of us.
To not see it would be a crime as an audience and a grave injustice to the makers of Ok, Computer.