The taxi driver looks like a professional actor, his vehicle is quite clearly stationary, and his conversations with his passengers appear to be scripted. Yes to all: Srinivas Sunderrajan’s web series TXDRMY is a work of metafiction in which the lines between the reality of Mumbai, our collective imagination of this reality, and the fiction that this reality inspires are braided together with deadpan wit.
TXDRMY is the latest web series produced by the Humara Movie YouTube channel. Its five episodes have all been written and directed by Sunderrajan, who has previously made the independent features The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project and Greater Elephant and is also the bassist for the indie band Scribe. The driver, played by Siddhant Behl, ferries a Dev Anand look-alike, a woman who claims to be God, a serial killer, and an underworld don. The episodes flow from one to the next and add up to a little over 36 minutes, and it makes sense to catch all of them at one go. The best moments are towards the end, as the fictional life of the series and the supposed reality of its characters start to overlap. Behl’s taxi driver, identified as the actor Omung Kumar, goes missing. As the crew wait for him, they wonder whether they will be paid, while Sunderrajan has weightier issues on his mind: “Do you think this is indulgent, or it is indulgent at all?”
Omung Kumar has his own concerns about appearing in a web series after the highs of the movies and television. “I’m a 70mm guy, you know” he tells Sunderrajan. “But this is 720p,” replies the filmmaker. Quite, and the series make good use of the format’s intimacy and its ability to suggest more than what is being seen on the screen. The static taxi is washed over with lighting effects and the street sounds of Mumbai to pretend that it is in motion. Behl put on his best inquisitive taxi driver face to impersonate the uniform-clad men who hunch over steering wheels and relieve the tedium of daily traffic by engaging Mumbai’s citizens with banalities and profundities.