Amazon mini-TV’s latest offering, a short film titled “Recommended For You,” shows us the dark side of bingeing, hacking, and surveillance. In their earlier release titled “1800 Life,” a depressed comedian on the brink of committing suicide receives a random call that develops into a meaningful conversation that helps change his outlook on life. ‘1800 Life’ served as a reminder that in the present day and age, we are never really alone or off the grid and technology has invaded itself into almost all aspects of our lives—for better or worse. ‘Recommended For You’ takes the idea to the next level; this time most definitely for the worse.
The plot follows a young man named Pranav (brilliantly essayed by Ayush Mehra) who has a twisted psyche and takes sadistic pleasure in watching online videos of mishaps. It’s like his oxygen. He just can’t get enough of it. While casually watching online videos at home, he suddenly clicks on a mysterious video in the recommended videos section and begins to binge-watch its content. His life turns upside down in a shocking series of events as he unexpectedly becomes a central part of the narrative.It is all about the dark side of technology, which is often hidden in plain sight. In recent times, a lot of shows have tried to explore this realm. Now, both in terms of concept and execution, ‘Recommended For You’ is nothing exceptional, especially given what we have already seen in shows such as ‘Black Mirror,’ ‘Electric Dreams,’ ‘Solos,’ ‘The Twilight Zone,’ and ‘Love Death + Robots.’
Take, for example, the case of the episode ‘The Entire History of You’ from ‘Black Mirror.’ The episode is set in a world where a “grain” technology records people’s audiovisual senses, allowing a person to re-watch their memories. When an insecure husband attends a dinner party with his wife, he becomes suspicious after seeing her zealously interact with a friend of hers. This leads him to scrutinise the friend’s memories as well as his wife’s about the nature of their relationship with the friend. Creepy, isn’t it?
In another episode titled “Nosedive,” people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have, which can impact their socioeconomic status. When a young woman overly obsessed with her ratings finds an opportunity to elevate her ratings greatly and move into a more luxurious residence after being chosen by her popular childhood friend as the maid of honour for her wedding, several mishaps cause people to rate her negatively, dropping her rating so much that her flight is cancelled and she cannot buy a seat on another flight. Things just keep on getting worse from there on out. Isn’t it terrifying?
However, not many Indian offerings can claim to have truly world-class special effects because, more often than not, budgetary constraints are at work. And so, good writing can really come in handy. While ‘Recommended For You’ is about bingeing, hacking, and surveillance, it is also about loss of privacy and the insatiable lust of capitalism. In that sense, the short film does have some similarities to the popular South Korean show ‘Squid Game’ as well.
Amazon miniTV is an interesting video streaming service available on Amazon’s shopping app for free, and although “Recommended For You” isn’t exceptional, it is nonetheless an interesting addition to the short film segment on the platform.