It was only a matter of time before one realized how social media exacerbates a particular form of duality within a person. If that was not the case then the last two years certainly brought to the fore how likes, comments, and hashtags give birth to social media vigilantes, swing opinions, and contribute to a manufactured discourse. The new Hotstar show Escaype Live attempts to perhaps show that tip of the iceberg; in that, Siddharth Kumar Tewary’s show succeeds to an extent.
The plot, despite its futuristic office setting, is simple. There’s an app and it is hosting an online 30-day competition; win it and you have 3 crores in your bank. Just like it would be in real life, competitors line up. They are from varying backgrounds – the metros and villages, rich and poor, and of course good and bad.
The similarity with Tik-Tok is obvious. There is instant fame and all you need to do is make reels for those likes. There is a smart twist to it though. The performer earns likes and ‘diamonds’. These diamonds can be reimbursed for actual money with the application company taking its share from it. The company wants to make stars, change lives, and feed its ulterior motives. It is very clear that business is a priority, and to what extent these characters go in order to claim the reward propels the story.
Now, the answer to that is not given to us even after watching seven 40-45 minute episodes. This is because the
finale episodes will air on 27th May. Here’s the deal, perhaps the makers jumped to the gun and thought that they’ve created an edge-of-the-seat thriller and the audiences will jump in to see the conclusion on 27th eventually crashing Hotstar’s website (a long shot). Or the makers felt that a steady viewing till the 27th will immerse them in the show and binge-watching was never intended. Either way, there is a lot here to hold your attention, and then there are reasons you might leave it halfway.
The performances are engaging. Nobody is trying to intellectualize these characters. They surround us in our day-to-day lives or show up on our screens while we scroll. There is Dark Angel convincingly played by Sumedh Mudgalkar, Fetish Girl is played brilliantly by Plabita Borthakur, Aamcha Spider is portrayed by Ritvik Sahore who is effortless, and Aadyaa Sharma is exceptional as Dancing Rani. Rohit Chandel performs well as Rajkumar, a transgender hoping to get his sex change operation done. Siddharth plays the moral compass of the show. He works as a content moderator for the company and is aghast with its workings. His restraint is perhaps meant to showcase an inner conflict that more or less extracts a good performance out of him. Javed Jaffery is refreshing to watch as Ravi Gupta the application lead. There are other characters too and this is where it gets a bit exhausting to maintain your interest. There are too many to follow, some patience might be of help.
Nevertheless, the show is a commendable attempt. For many, shows on the perils of social media are not new. Escaype Live asks many questions. I am a bit apprehensive about calling anything far-fetched or unrealistic here. Possibilities that seemed ludicrous yesterday, have become a quotidian today. It is to be decided how this vicious world spirals out of control in the future, and if it does as these dystopian shows predict, the makers can despairingly say, “told you so”.