Director: Arijit Sorkar
Writer: Arijit Sorkar, Barun Majumder
Cast: Kiran Dutta, Sayan Ghosh, Amit Saha, Shreya Bhattacharya
Streaming on: YouTube
Time Up begins with the death of a farmer. It’s actually suicide, but Biju (Sayan Ghosh), the local supplier of fertilisers, who has been providing adulterated stuff, wants to frame it as a Covid casualty. Present at the scene with his two ruffian sidekicks, like goons in a political satire, his ill-fitted, tricoloured mask hides his real face: this is the state, weaponising the virus as a means of exploitation of the poor and hard-working to cover up its own failings.
If Biju symbolises all that is corrupt and insidious about the government, Spandan (Kiran Dutta), the government servant, is the hero (if not entirely likeable), an employee in its agricultural department on an inspection trip to the village. The series is comical in tone, but death looms large, and not even the hero is immune to it. Turns out he can’t change the world – that is, until he wakes up in a world that needs no change.
Writer-director Arijit Sorkar’s new web series brings time loop into the picture to articulate this helplessness, but I’m not sure if it’s entirely successful, dragging too long before it starts getting interesting, placing more emphasis on pseudo science mumbo-jumbo that goes beyond the audience’s head than trying to integrate it seamlessly into the plot.
Neither does it work as an allegory, nor as a story on its own term, something that Sorkar’s first web series Rest in Prem did so well. It was both a clever take on a platonic relationship in an oversexed web series landscape and a supernatural rom-com about, simply put, a guy and his ghost girlfriend. I had a hard time getting through the first four episodes, which is the pre-time loop portions, either thrown off by the shoddy sound mixing or a lack of intrigue in the storytelling (and at other times, turned off by its TVF hangover, unable to shake off the feeling that Spandan, played by popular YouTuber Kiran Dutta, is actually a product of Karthik Aryan’s rant from Pyaar Ka Punchnama and that guy from Kota Factory, always just a scene away from a meninist monologue, not to mention the Panchayat like premise).
Where the time loop should have been a means to dig deeper into the issue it’s trying to talk about, it comes across more as a juvenile stunt. Sorkar’s attempts to explore fantasy concepts in low-budget, homegrown setups is admirable. As is his obsession with certain themes, like death and afterlife, certain character types and narrative arcs – it’s the mark of a filmmaker who is unafraid to be himself – but he has no control over this one. The name of his independent production house rings ironically true: Confused Picture.