Love in virtual hell: Raghu Ram and Harman Singha's new web show may scare you off Siri

Raghu Ram and Harman Singha’s new web show may scare you off Siri. But it’s totally worth tuning in to anyway

We were just having a conversation about how cool it would be to have a virtual girlfriend. And then, ‘it just veered off to, but what would happen if she turned on you?’” says Raghu Ram, actor and writer of Arre’s new web show, A.I.SHA —#My Virtual Girlfriend. “She would have all your information as well. After all, she has been in your computer. She knows everything about you,” adds Harman Singha, who plays protagonist Sam in the series and is also co-writer.

Raghu Ram and Harman Singha
Raghu Ram and Harman Singha zeroed in on the idea of the show during a random conversation. When they couldn’t find writers, they wrote it themselves. Pic/Nimesh Dave

The show, which will include seven episodes in its first season, is about a geeky app developer played by 28-year-old Singha (younger brother to Roadies’ Rannvijay Singha). Sam’s life is complicated by a difficult boss, played by Ram, 41, who portrays the I-will-make-your-life-miserable character with the same ease with which he intimidated contestants on the reality show, and a love interest who doesn’t care… yet.

He then develops the perfect artificial intelligence app, called A.I.SHA (short for Artifical Intelligence Stimulated Humanoid Assistant), who turns against him and, armed with every byte of knowledge about Sam, is equipped to destroy him. He, like Victor Frankenstein, has in fact created a monster. “That’s where the original inspiration comes from. It’s as far back as that, even though Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a concept that’s been explored a lot in recent times,” says Singha, over cups of tea at Ram’s Versova home. So that’s why the video logs that Singha’s character records, are captioned “Victor V logs”, we say. Both of them jump, “Extra points for you. We hope people notice stuff like that. That was suddenly a Nolan moment for us,” says Ram. And then he adds, “The concept may be similar, but the story is unique. It’s not a copy of anything that exists.”

A still from the web series A.I.SHA
A still from the web series A.I.SHA 

It sure doesn’t feel like one. If we went by the name and expected a light comedy, we couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s high on dark humour and packed with suspense. The two episodes we watched were gripping. Singha, who seems a natural, is believable and endearing as Sameer, who seems to get the short end of the stick. The smartly directed show keeps you wanting more, and that is a trick to master. Especially, when web series are a dime a dozen.

We are glad people can’t wait to know what happens next. From episode three onwards, it’s a thriller,” says Singha, who is also busy writing a sitcom. The actor, who has a full-time job as a online content head in a production house, collaborated with Ram after writing the pilot last year. “We looked for writers but none fit the bill so we did it ourselves,” he says.

“I am happy that we went against expectation and made a show that is gritty. You would think it’s a light comedy because there is really nothing like this in this space right now. It’s completely new.
And it’s going to be full of surprises,” says Ram. The show took 35 days to write and was completed in September 2015. Also starring are Auritra Ghosh as Kriti and Nimista Mehta as A.I.SHA.

Along with trying to make a smart show, the two of course, seem to be making a point about the larger issue on hand — our generation’s obsession with AI and social networking. “It’s going to be a real concern some years down the line. AI is already smarter than us. How far are we ready to go?” wonders Singha. Ram adds, “Anything I want to be associated with had to be dark and serious, and that’s why the show takes an ugly turn. That’s why the question ‘what happens when your perfect girl turns on you?’”

The Christopher Nolan fans are tripping over Game of Thrones season 6. “I like that show. Otherwise, I just watch anything these young ones suggest. They said, watch Narcos and I loved that,” says Ram. Singha launches into what all he is watching. “There’s a show called Person of Interest, also based on AI. And a British show called Black Mirror, which is also about what happens when technology takes over. But, I also watch a lot of comedy, like Broad City on Netflix.”

Right now though, they are busy soaking in the praise that’s coming in for their venture. “We love the fact that people are actually waiting for the next episode. The first episode hooks you and with the second, you start liking it.

That’s great,” says Singha, before smiling shyly, “and then there are all those direct messages on Twitter…”

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