Pushpavalli Season 2 web series review: Edgy, entertaining and empathetic
Pushpavalli is our equivalent of Fleabag, another highly entertaining comedy with a problematic lead, with loads of heart and also nuance
I watched the first season of Pushpavalli (created by Sumukhi Suresh) quite by accident. I had watched some of Sumukhi’s earlier work and liked them; saw that the show had 25-min episodes and voila, the bingeing began. And at the end of eight episodes, I was thoroughly entertained. Edgy, sharp, wearing a dark hood of humour, Pushpavalli took stereotypes and gave it an over-the-top twist. The show’s flavour of humour reminds us of stand-up comedy, in a good way. And it also gave us one of the most unapologetic protagonists of all time.
Cast: Sumukhi Suresh, Naveen Richard, Manish Anand
Director: Debbie Rao
Streaming on: Amazon Prime
The second season doesn’t fall far from the tree. Pushpavalli is back in her multilingual universe in Bangalore. This time, for revenge. And the show keeps reminding us of what happened... reminding Pushpavalli herself in a way lest she gets ‘soft’. And Pushpavalli’s way to do this is by winning back Nikhil's (Manish Anand) trust, the one she stalks from Bhopal. For this, she decides to get engaged to Vidhyuth (Vidyuth Gargi), who is also from Bangalore; manipulates Pankaj (Naveen Richard) to give her back her job at his children's library; all the while scheming to ruin Nikhil’s business.
Pushpavalli is a true-blue stalker. Her obsession is toxic. She is manipulative. Lies punctuate a lot of what she says and most of her actions have an agenda. Yet, we nurture a soft spot for her. The strength of this show lies in its writing — in the way it beautifully fuses two extremes and how it humanises its inhabitants. Pushpavalli is crafty, but she is also street-smart and intelligent. She is relentless and will let nothing keep her from what she wants. And she is insecure, vulnerable, reeling under the weight of noxious social standards of physical beauty. She doesn’t want someone to ‘be okay’ with her plus-size figure, doesn’t want anyone to ‘settle’ for her. How could someone ‘like her’ be with someone ‘perfect’ like Nikhil? She convinces herself that it wouldn’t happen under normal circumstances, and hence the scheming begins — trying to somehow become the one Nikhil relies upon and creating situations for the same. Until, a slap shakes her out of planned paradise, briefly.
I was rather enamoured with the easy chemistry that Pushpavalli and Vidyuth strike when you think there is no chance for it. They squabble over Federer and Nadal, Ivanisevic and Sampras. Vidyuth chides Pushpavalli for liking ‘losers’, while she argues that Sampras is too perfect. ‘Personality over perfection’. It is hard to miss the irony. She chases perfection while expecting the rest of the world to see personality. On the other hand, Pankaj and Swathi (Pritika Chawla) create an adorable moment together, over a harmonica song and bikini songs. The writing is not only fresh but also insightful.
The flawless performances add to the harmony, with everyone in sync with the pitch of the show. Lead by a terrific Sumukhi Suresh and Naveen Richards, who go through emotions as easily as one would turn pages, the supporting cast sell their parts just as effectively. They skilfully embody the marriage of stereotypes their characters are. Pushpavalli is vengeful but not venomous. Pankaj might hide behind cuss words but is equally sensitive and empathetic when need be. Vidyuth adds flesh to the 'America mappillai' caricature and Swathi to the ‘pretty girlfriend’ one.
Pushpavalli is our equivalent of Fleabag, another highly entertaining comedy with a problematic lead, with loads of heart and also nuance. (Pushpavalli came first, by the way.) And I would love to see a third season — this season ends on a cliffhanger. Swati might have had enough of Pushpavalli already, but we haven't. Not even close.