Vortex Review – Pushkar-Gayathri Features Visual Sophistication in a Familiar, Yet Engaging Premise – Entertainment News, Firstpost
Suzhal subverts cinematic stereotypes and retains his dark, edgy tones throughout.
The latest web series from director duo Pushkar-Gayathri Suzhal is an investigative thriller. The usually sleepy Sambaloor is gearing up for its biggest event of the year – the nine-day Mayana Kollai Festival. On the first night of the festival, two major events occur. The local cement plant burns down in a fire and fifteen-year-old Nila disappears. The series follows Inspector Regina (Shriya) and Chakrvarthy (Kathir) as they follow the lead to solve the case.
Investigative crime thrillers aren’t exactly foreign territory, especially those set in sleepy little towns. The most recent example would be that of Kate Winslet Easttown Mare. And it’s a tough space to keep audiences hooked and in suspense. Crime thrillers come with a caveat – we know the real criminal won’t be revealed until the end. It’s like watching scooby-doo; you just know the “suspects” in the middle of the episode will be wrong. But the challenge is to overcome that by making the ride engaging and entertaining.
Easttown Mare does so by making the series a character study of its jaded and pessimistic protagonist Mare. Suzhal does so by creating a familiar yet distinctively atypical world. Overall, the story and the characters seem familiar. But Suzhal overturns stereotypes by simply changing the genders and identities involved. For example, the impetuous, corrupt, intimidating and overbearing policeman is a woman. The parent who abandons the children to join an ashram is the mother. By simply making his women imperfect, Suzhal creates a fresh universe.
It’s not just the characters. Suzhal also plays with the cinematic stereotypes that accompany perceptions. Take Regina, for example. There is a scene where she comes home drunk. There is a playful exchange with his son Adhisayam, who teases his “intolerance” for foreign alcohol. It is a stereotype in Tamil cinema to portray Regina as a bad mother who spoils her kid son. But is she?
Nothing is as it seems – this is the central theme of Suzhal. The innocent are not really innocent and the guilty are not who you think. The series takes a lot of effort to make sure its prevarications don’t look like it. There are details of misleading twists, but the writing is pretty cohesive for the most part. Most red herrings are predictable. But even if you know them, they still work – not in terms of surprise, but as intriguing details that add more flavor to the tale. But it’s annoying that even a series like this ends on an info/stats card. (A little trigger warning for sexual violence)
SuzhalThe visuals epitomize visual sophistication – The series maintains its dark, bold tones throughout. And the cast really pulls its weight.
After Pariyerum Perumal, Kathir returns with a perfect performance. And Aishwarya Rajesh continues her winning streak. I also particularly liked Shriya who played Regina. On paper, Regina is not much different from the character of Shriya in Thimiru. But both performances are like chalk and cheese. She is an actress that we should see more often, and in more varied roles too.
At one point, Chakravarthy has a moment of introspection where he questions his judgement. He wonders how he assumed that people with certain socio-physical markers were “bad guys.” “Our training only tells us to continue this profiling,” he adds. In another insightful moment, a transgender woman observes that she doesn’t get ready-made clothes – no one makes clothes for her needs. Even the mythological angle, the weakest side of the series, has sociological relevance. Suzhal is an addition to the content that shows Nattar Deivangal. One character notes how devotion is intrinsically linked to Brahminical values of purity and vegetarianism. Despite his familiarity, throwaway moments and moments like these that Suzhal remembered.
Suzhal: The Vortex is streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Ashameera Aiyappan is a film journalist who writes about Indian cinema with a focus on South Indian films.
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