Sitting through three hours of Amazon Prime Video’s sitcom-wannabe Time Enna Boss involves repeating the show’s title a few times. You settle in, sit down and start watching the show expecting it to be an easy binge. In all of 10 minutes, you find yourself looking up at the heavens, screaming…time Enna boss?
It’s genius in a sense. For a show about time travel, it impressive that it manages to slow down time, to the point where you feel your beard growing. But how did we get here so quickly? Because the premise is perfect for the sitcom format. Bala (Bharath) lives in a fancy Chennai apartment when his time travel-equipped toilet throws up four people from four different time periods. So we get Robo Shankar playing Kili from 933 AD, Bharathi (Priya Bhavani Shankar) from the 1970s, Hannah from 1895 and then Buggy (Karunakaran) from 2070. So, is this premise itself a gold mine around which the jokes, the conflicts, the characters and even the catchphrases will write themselves?
Then, why do we have to watch someone as talented as comic/writer Alexander (Alex) hammer home a line as plain as “I’m a watchman. I keep watching everyone,” dozens of times? Another running gag involves the word “brilliant”, the mere use of which freezes Bharathi. The idea is really out there and you try hard to play along but couldn’t the writers have thought of a funnier word or, at least, more organic situations to bring it into play? Add inconsistent add-ons like a cartoon mouse and Hannah’s pointless alter ego and you feel the makers are trying too hard to appear wacky.
And that’s a shame because there’s only one way of doing a show like this, and that’s with complete, no-looking-back levels of conviction. Which means that we don’t care if you don’t give us an episode showing us their collective panic, wanting to get back to their respective time periods. We don’t even care if these characters have motivations or a conflict they need to solve. All we need are the big LOL moments that consistently keep coming.
Another issue is just how inept the director is at translating all that craziness in the script to the screen. For instance, an entire episode revolves around a bag of magic mushrooms and the confusions that result when the characters consume it. In all probability, there’s no limit to what you can do and show with such a situation, but what they eventually manage to do it with it is plain lazy. Be it slapstick, situational or observational, the crew proves that most forms of comedy are not their beat.
Except for one specific genre of it. Let’s not class it up by calling it wordplay, but the writers of Time Enna Boss have a unique strand of genius in them when it comes to some good old mokkai (PJs). So when you see two YouTubers on the show introducing themselves as Ganesh(s), you know they work for VTV. In another scene, Bharath walks in on two women gossiping and he interrupts them by shouting, “hey Kajal-Sandhya!”.
The apartment they live in is ‘7G’ and, appropriately, we get a poster of Ravi Krishna himself demonstrating the effects of the Kuleshov Effect. These mokkai monstrosities are everywhere and they work like little diamonds buried deep in acres of coal. Another favourite was Robo Shankar sporting a t-shirt with the words ‘Sal Maan Mark’ on what looks like firecrackers. And the caption? Get your bang for the buck. The buck… Get it?
And, of course, the best has to be the background music that plays during a routine sports montage scene. As Buggy is seen preparing for a marathon, we get a theme where a man simply narrates titles of Akira Kurosawa’s films, one after the other. And when he seems to be running out of titles, he moves on to Yuddham Sei, Mugamoodi, Nandalala, Kikujiro…one of few jokes that didn’t get under Myskkin.
It’s the wildness in these moments you wished the writers had dug deeper into. Perhaps, all they needed was some encouragement, a pat on their shoulder and the advice that it’s OKAY to be mokkai.