Suzhal: The whirlpool of colorless and odorless tale

The screenwriter-filmmaker duo Pushkar-Gayathri have built a formidable reputation with the success of Vikram Vedha. The duo is also in the process of re-shooting the film in Hindi, starring Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan. Her foray into the web series with Suzhal: The Vortex bears some of the burden of living up to her reputation. Unfortunately, the series falls short in this regard.

Pushkar-Gayathri wrote the eight-part series and is co-directed by filmmakers Bramma G and Anucharan Murugaiyan. The shortcomings of this series are also shared by everyone.

Suzhal may seem like a giant leap by the standards of Tamil soaps, but by global standards the show’s creators have hardly scratched the surface, with many generic moments throughout the show.

Suzhal is in the background of a small town. The story begins on an eventful night. The lonely town factory that has become the town’s identity is ravaged by fire, a young girl goes missing and the Mayanakollai festival begins. At the end of the series we are no further than when we opened. Yes, some of our questions are answered, but we’re not delving into a story to know who did it. Where’s the fun in that?

We know that there is no real magic. We know that when a man pulls a rabbit out of a hat, it’s not due to magical powers. We’re aware that it’s part of the script – it’s a play, a trick. But every time the magician pulls out a rabbit, we cheer and clap, knowing we’ve been lied to. And what is a movie or a series? It’s nothing but 24 lies per second. So where is the bunny, the fireworks, or other illusionary tricks that plunge us into a whirlpool of narrative? And let’s not forget that this is also an exploratory work. At the end of each illusion, we should find something new about the human psyche and maybe even help us learn new information about ourselves.

In Suzhal we get storytellers in a hurry to reach the finish line. That’s it. The narration moves as if put in a straitjacket. We can see that this series was made by a group of storytellers who were afraid of making a mistake and perhaps under pressure to put together a passable one-episode series that averages 40 minutes. That’s all there is to this series. It is neither inventive nor immersive. It’s just a straight shot to the end line.

Using the same methods when writing for a series as for a movie is a serious mistake. The web series is a whole different beast and requires a different approach to tackle it on all fronts.

For example, we learn nothing about the fictional industrial city of Suzhal. We don’t get a sense of its geography, or a full understanding of its sinister history, or its troubled residents. The same goes for the Mayanakollai Festival. The celebrations and celebrations of the local deity reflect the crimes of a missing girl and everything that happens around her. Aside from multiplying the narrative, the celebration of local legend serves no greater purpose. It’s simply made part of the narrative as it provides a vivid visual backdrop to an otherwise bland narrative. I am afraid that the showrunners did not show the festival, which seems to date back to pre-Vedic times, in a correct social, cultural and traditional context. Especially when Mayanakollai is painted as a metaphor for the series. They leave the practices of the festival hanging in the air, leaving the audience’s prejudices and judgment to understand them.

There isn’t a single performance that stands out either, which is quite scandalous considering she has such proven talent on the cast list. The biggest disappointment comes from R. Parthiban. He doesn’t feel committed to his character and makes little effort to let us feel the pain of a father whose daughter is missing. The sense of disappointment only deepens as the story progresses as the father learns more terrible things that happened to his teenage daughter. His acting lacks soul and conviction. The writing is sometimes so weak that, despite the best efforts of actors like Aishwarya Rajesh and Sriya Reddy, it undermines a scene’s effectiveness.

Kathir plays a young cop who acts less like a cop and more like a gossip killer. His character is passed off as a savior, but he’s too stupid for that. Aside from exploiting the power that derives from his stature as a cop, he doesn’t have the redeeming quality of being a hero. A little homework on how a police officer might behave in an investigation would have saved Kathir a lot of embarrassment. He’s not willing to lose his beard for the role of cop.

Suzhal is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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