White Matter isn’t one of those must-watch shows hitting the Indian online space with commendable regularity

Review of Hotstar’s White Matter- Watch it if you have time to kill 1

A Mad Hatter scientist, a terminally-ill single mother and an angst-ridden rock-star, hell-bent on self-destruction – what do you get when the three are brought together? A half-baked, could-have-been-better serving called White Matter, that’s what!

White Matter is the latest web series to hit the online space in India. Streaming on Hot Star, the digital arm of Star Plus, it is a show that lurks on the fringes of science fiction, skimming just the surface of the realm, without quite taking the plunge into its mysterious depths.

White Matter is the story of Neha, a single mother; Jimmy, a rock-star with a death wish; and Dr Subramaniam, a renowned scientist, who wants to use the two as guinea pigs, in his quest to win the Nobel Prize for a breakthrough in Biology, an award that he thinks he deserves, but that has eluded him for fifteen years. Their lives get intertwined inextricably in the course of the proceedings, even as the story hurtles headlong into an intriguing premise.

Neha (Isha Koppikar Narang, making her web debut) is struggling to make ends meet in a nondescript job that just about suffices to meet her daily expenses. She is given to bouts of excruciating headaches that leave her in tears with their piercing intensity. Umpteen tests and examinations later, her doctor diagnoses it as an incurable brain tumour, giving her mere months to live. As the doctor delivers her verdict with an ominous finality, a nosy hospital attendant hovering nearby (obviously to eavesdrop), makes a furtive call to someone about having found the perfect patient (read: specimen) for him.

Jimmy (South star, Ajmal Ameer) is a singing sensation, gifted enough to enthral and mesmerize the crowds with his high notes.But alas, he is on a fast spiral towards irredeemable downfall, due to his overpowering anger and unchecked alcoholism. His liver is irreversibly damaged and may soon give way to his excessive drinking.

Dr V K Subramaniam (M Nasser) is a brilliant and much-awarded scientist, with many inventions to his name, chief being an ointment that can heal wounds within minutes. But all that he desires is to win the Nobel, the ultimate acknowledgment of his brilliance. This he proposes to do by achieving the seemingly impossible – successfully transplanting the human brain – something he claims to have figured out. Dr Subramaniam is bestowed with an Einstein-esque aura in the show, complete with unruly, whitemane and frenetic energy.

Neha gets a message from Dr Subramaniam, telling her that if she wants to live, she should come down to the address mentioned in the message. She meets him and realizes that he’s her last shot at survival. In the meanwhile, Jimmy drops down dead due to a failed liver, outside the same hospital where Subramaniam’s Man Friday sneaks out dead bodies for the doctor to experiment on. He picks up Jimmy too, and takes him to Subramaniam.

Subramaniam transplants Jimmy’s still-harvest-worthy brain into Neha, and Neha wakes up a changed person. She has taken on Jimmy’s consciousness and displays the classic split personality syndrome. Sometimes she is Neha; at other times she is Jimmy. She is the only one who can see Jimmy, and is hounded by him wherever she goes (a euphemism for having Jimmy’s consciousness, in our opinion). And yes, along with his mannerisms and gait, she even receives his formidable singing talent.

The plot wraps up nicely in the end and is neither too complicated to follow nor too simple that it bores. We have just one grouse against the entire series–

The human brain is the most fascinating piece of creation there is- breath-taking in its complexity, mesmerizing in its sophistication and riveting in its brilliance. While scientists have managed to unlock quite a few secrets of the vast and mysterious universe, yet, with all the advanced technologies at their disposal, they have not even begun to fathom the enigmatic depths of the human brain.It continues to confound, astound, stun and enthral the scientific community, with its awe-inspiring abilities and structural magnificence.

Is it any wonder then that the study of the human brain has been called the ‘last frontier in science’?

And then there is White Matter– a show that proceeds to trivialize this fascinating creation of nature by suggesting that it can oh-so-easily be transplanted from one human being into another.It is highly improbable, edging on impossibility, to do it in real life.

With so many magnificent science fiction shows jostling for space in the online realm – Altered Carbon, the seminal Stranger Things, Lost in Space, Dark, Sense8, Black mirror and so many more – this one seems rather tame in comparison.

If there’s anything to sing paeans to, in the series, it is the acting. Isha Koppikar Narang puts in a bravura performance, switching between Jimmy and Neha with flawless ease. Ajmal Ameer is a revelation. Conventional audiences (read- those that limit themselves to Hindi and English content) are unfamiliar with this popular South star. He has a towering presence and a potent magnetic personality that draws attention and keeps it. M Nasser, who impressed audiences across the country with his performance as the evil Bijjala Deva in the Bahubali franchise, holds the show together with his particular brand of eccentricity and humour. He’s quite adorable and funny in parts too, as the Mad Hatter scientist.

The story, written by Arun Balaji and Nikita Ramchandra Gupta (who’s also the producer), and the direction, by Bhavya Bokaria, is pretty decent and keeps us pretty much engaged throughout the series. Nowhere do the proceedings lag, moving ahead at a fast pace and keeping us engrossed. That is a plus in the show’s favour. It is light, breezy and fast.

The writers could have been a little more inventive. The protagonists are too stereotypical. Neha is a single mother, fighting off a lecherous boss at work, and a philandering ex-husband who wants to snatch her daughter away from her. Jimmy is a compulsive drinker because his selfish mother had left his father and him for greener pastures when he was a mere child. If that isn’t predictive, then what is?

The show has been produced by Alchemy Vision Workz in association with East West Dream Works.

All said and done, White Matter isn’t one of those must-watch shows hitting the Indian online space with commendable regularity. Watch it if you have time to kill and nothing better to do. Or give it a wide berth.

We, at IWMBuzz, would rate White Matter 2+1/5, the extra 1 for the acting.

(Written By Rashmi Paharia)

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