Not being a big fan of comedians Sumukhi Suresh and Naveen Richards, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Pushpavalli. The trailer wasn’t all that exciting since there was stalking involved, only the roles had been reversed. I suspected that stalking had been glorified, made fun of, and not taken too seriously because it’s a man at the other end; who wouldn’t like a woman chasing them?
However, I couldn’t have been wrong. Not only is the content fresh and the story unlike most stalker stories, the actors, particularly the two comedians I hadn’t really been too fond of, were quite impressive.
Pushpavalli (Sumukhi Suresh) is a Tamil girl brought up by her lone mother in Bhopal. She has reached what people like to call the ‘marriageable age’, but her heart beats for someone else. A dapper, handsome man from Bengaluru called Nikhil Rao (Manish Anand). Having spent some quality time with each other during a conference in Bhopal, Pushpavalli decides to uproot her life and move to a whole new city. All for the ‘true love’ she has for the boy, even though he is completely oblivious to this.
She works at an upscale children’s library (more of a day care centre, really), hired by her childhood friend, the hotheaded Pankaj (Naveen Richards). From bribing the local Tea Boy (T Boi) for some information on Nikhil’s whereabouts to managing an escape from her landlady Vasu’s hockey stick each time the subject of deposit and rent payment comes up, the show documents Pushpavalli’s travails from the moment she lands in Bangalore.
The series is quick and cuts to the chase, minus a few deviations and random characterisations. Directed by Debbie Rao, the story combines Tamil and Kannada references so organically that it needs to be celebrated – given how these two languages are often misrepresented in Bollywood. With only eight episodes on Amazon Prime, each lasting 20 minutes, Pushpavalli is a quick watch with a terrific ending.
Things are unexpected, and in many ways, strangely relatable. The stalking part too, has been handled well, considering the makers don’t make fun of it, but instead give us a peek into Pushpavalli’s messed up mind. At the same time, one can’t fully blame her. Having been raised by an overbearing mother who continues to tell her what to do even after she starts living independently, Pushpavalli has never really had the chance to be on her own. Made fun of and having been friendless almost all her life, Pushpavalli has never really known love, mistaking light banter for flirting.
And that’s when the relatability ends, and the thriller part of the show picks up, where the makers don’t quite justify her obsession with Nikhil exactly.
The writing is simple, nothing over the top. Something that would make viewers scream, “Don’t do that, Pushpavalli. Don’t!”
Sumukhi Suresh knows where her strengths lie – her comedy and expressions. And she continues to be spot on, even in the most poignant scenes.
Naveen Richards, as the man who cannot stop cussing, isn’t here to make comedy. Initially, it takes some convincing – to watch a person who routinely makes people laugh, screaming and hopping mad. But he grows on you. And soon enough, you want to recommend some anger management classes to him, because Richards is that good when he’s angry.
Perhaps the one who truly steals the show is Shraddha, a former RJ, who plays the eccentric landlady Vasu. Hair tied in a bun and perpetually dressed in nighties, she’s someone who has no qualms about breaking people’s legs with her hockey stick. Shraddha as Vasu is the best part of the show. She’s hilarious, especially when she mixes Kannada and English, and says the most outrageous things so nonchalantly. She gets the best of lines, and a better screen presence. If anything, there should be a series on her, a far more fascinating character than the others on the show.