OK Computer — the brand new Hotstar Specials collection — desires to be quite a lot of issues. At its core, it is designed as a sci-fi comedy. While it is tonally impressed by Douglas Adams’ seminal 1979 novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, its filmmaking fashion takes after modern-day mockumentaries akin to The Office and Modern Family. But then, OK Computer is wrapped in a whodunit thriller thriller plot, which seemingly attracts from the works of Isaac Asimov and HBO’s Westworld collection. Ship of Theseus director Anand Gandhi, a author on OK Computer, has acknowledged the Adams and Asimov inspirations. He stated that they — together with creators, administrators, and fellow writers Pooja Shetty and Neil Pagedar — would continually ask: “What would Charlie Chaplin, Jacques Tati, or Govinda do? That’s the mindset of the series […] wacky and zany.”
Unfortunately, OK Computer fails to emulate the very best qualities of these inspirations. In the title of being comedic, the OK Computer writers pressure quirkiness and idiosyncrasy in every single place. Every character is eccentric, has odd mannerisms, and says essentially the most random of issues. OK Computer is bonkers and all over at instances. As for the narrative, exposition is stuffed in each nook. It does attempt to be inventive at instances, by making use of animated interludes or being self-aware about its monologues. But these are uncommon respites. To add to the expository mess, the OK Computer script is riddled with logical gaps and different points. There’s little character growth because the six episodes — I’ve seen all of them — are overtly plot-driven, however even that’s messy. It is mindless how issues occur, and why they go in a sure route.
OK Computer additionally often acquired on my nerves. This is a dialogue-heavy present, to the purpose it seems like OK Computer is competing with the Tina Fey comedy 30 Rock. That isn’t an issue in itself. The bother is that one of many major characters is a sentient AI robotic known as Ajeeb (voiced by Pagedar, and performed by Ullas Mohan), whose voice is very grating on the ears. I continuously wished to punch Ajeeb by way of the display so it could cease speaking. At one level, OK Computer inserted a high-pitched tone as a result of it was one thing the characters needed to endure as effectively. I muted the present. Who thought this was a good suggestion? These selections are deliberate little question, however you are not going to attain extra viewers if they can not stand to even hearken to your present.
Set in close to future 2031, OK Computer opens in Goa and dives into its plot straightaway: a self-driving automobile has killed a pedestrian. The man’s face has been mangled so badly that it is unidentifiable — OK Computer turns that right into a joke, with each character referring to the sufferer all through as “Pav Bhaji” — and there isn’t any match for his DNA too in any database. Enter Goa’s cyber cell ACP Saajan Kundu (Vijay Varma), a self-described lone wolf closely depending on others, who deems it a homicide. But Laxmi Suri (Radhika Apte), the CEO-founder of a non-profit that advocates for moral therapy of robots, objects — declaring that an AI might by no means kill a human because it goes towards Asimov’s three legal guidelines of robotics. There is historical past between Saajan and Laxmi, who appear to have cut up due to their differing values on the involvement of robots in human society.
Saajan’s investigation quickly leads him to Ajeeb, a one-of-a-kind robotic that kickstarted India’s AI revolution. If you let OK Computer inform it (which it does through a half-episode of exposition), Ajeeb was acquired so effectively when it was created years in the past that it was dubbed a messiah. It primarily solved all of India’s issues, together with non secular concord — or fairly, the shortage of it. This is presumably the best (unintentional) joke OK Computer is able to. More so given how Ajeeb is introduced as naïve and terrified. But Ajeeb quickly went in a brand new route that got here as a betrayal to most Indians, who pulled him down from his pedestal and all however discarded him. Forgotten and undesirable, Ajeeb has been lacking for some time earlier than Saajan’s group runs into him throughout their investigation. Saajan is satisfied that Ajeeb is responsible social gathering, however he’ll should undergo Laxmi.
Because that is not sufficient plot and with one eye on a season 2 (that has but to be greenlit), OK Computer additional expands by bringing in Pushpak Shakur (Jackie Shroff), the chief of an “anti-tech, anti-science, anti-vax, and anti-gravity ecoterrorist” group known as JJM, Jigyasu Jagrati Manch. (Sidenote, however is not anti-vax and anti-gravity, no matter that even means, primarily anti-science? Pushpak additionally does not imagine in clothes, which ends up in Disney+ Hotstar having to censor its personal unique. That’s one aspect of Indian theatres I’ve positively not missed on this endless pandemic.) Pushpak confesses that he is behind the dying, although it is instantly clear that he might need ulterior motives. Shakur serves as a mouthpiece for the OK Computer writers’ values and viewpoints, just like the present wanted one other expository machine.
When it isn’t consumed by narrative calls for, OK Computer makes an attempt to ruminate on the influence of AI robots on human society (like I, Robot from Asimov) and that we have gone overboard with expertise (like Hitchhiker’s). The world of OK Computer is stuffed with robots able to advanced language processing and understanding however they appear to share restricted rights. And like the Radiohead album it is named after (which in itself was a line from Hitchhiker’s), OK Computer tries to be political. But it barely registers, ending up as jabs fairly than deep-cut observations.
Weirdly sufficient, OK Computer finally ends up saying essentially the most by way of its picture of India. In this close to future, India is the chief of the world from science (India saved the planet from warming, Laxmi is the Greta Thunberg) to soccer (India now beats European giants handily). It’s half wishful pondering and half pop nationalism. That does not mirror right this moment’s India in any respect, which makes OK Computer appear to be an alt-history sci-fi collection. But OK Computer remains to be very a lot an extension of right this moment’s India elsewhere. It’s nearly as if OK Computer is saying that we’re sure to finish up who we’re as a individuals, irrespective of the technological progress, a shift in grassroots priorities, or celeb teenage activists (if we do not jail them first).
Gandhi additionally used the “India” cause to justify OK Computer’s lo-fi aesthetic — it is paying homage to Hitchhiker’s once more, in order that works — although for my part, it is extra probably a consequence of what the price range allowed. There’s extra proof of that in a portion of OK Computer that’s set inside a VR online game (it is publicly accessible however described as a darkish web online game as if meaning something), given how cartoonish the graphics are. And oh, the VR headsets look precisely just like the Oculus ones, humorous given it is 2031 and India is the projected chief in each division.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is among the funniest books I’ve ever learn. And as a result of and regardless of it being over 40 years outdated, we’ve and haven’t come a good distance. Adams envisioned a world overrun by expertise that was extra annoying than useful. It’s why the reply to life, the universe, and every thing, the guide’s supercomputer Deep Thought deduces, is 42. But as our world has turn out to be overrun by expertise, we have witnessed a complete vary of sudden penalties. OK Computer is born out of that worldview, that expertise has carried out extra dangerous than good. Today’s damaged “digital India”, extrapolated to 2031 with sentient AI robots, is ripe fodder for a sci-fi collection. But OK Computer has not one of the guide’s satirist powers or the mind to think about the latter world.
Its creators have digested among the world’s main sci-fi works, however what they’ve produced is actually the collection equal of Deep Thought’s reply. It’s Pav Bhaji.
All six episodes of OK Computer at the moment are streaming on Hotstar and Disney+ Hotstar.