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Headlined by the talented Sumukhi Suresh, Pushpavalli gives us such interestingly flawed women that we don’t quite miss the men!
Let me just start by saying I hugely enjoyed Pushpavalli, the latest Original series on Amazon Prime Video. Since it was headlined by the super talented Sumukhi Suresh, I was only expecting the usual ‘laugh tracks’, which weren’t enough to pull me to commit a good four hours from my busy weeknights. But after a quick look at the trailer, I decided to give the first episode a shot. And boy, was I in for a surprise.
Because Pushpavalli does something amazing. In Pushpavalli, the fantastically flawed (and creepy) but also fantastically relatable lead character, the series gives us a heroine who is unafraid to stand up (and in one scene literally stand up) for herself in the face of the most daunting situations. When was the last time we met a woman like her?
Let’s take a good long look at Pushpavalli. She is a Tamilian but lives in Bhopal, she is obviously on the ‘chubby’ side, as her mother calls her. She has an unusual educational qualification (she is studying to be a Food Inspector). She refuses to be coy about her weight, her appearance, and calls a scam a scam even in front of a prospective customer. When she runs out of recharge, she pursues a man for his mobile number so that she can have her friend recharge her phone in exchange for that number. Pushpavalli is what one could ‘bindhaas’.
When her overbearing and melodramatic mother tells her that a ‘NRI’ Tamilian boy has agreed to marry her and ‘likes’ her despite her chubbiness, Pushpavalli snaps, and you mentally give her a ‘high-five’. And even when she agrees to meet this boy, she does so only out of sheer desperation at not being unable to push her mother away – like so many other women like her.
But as fantastic as Pushpavalli’s persona is, what really gets this series going is her move to Bangalore from Bhopal for what she calls a ‘job’. Is it just the job? Her well-meaning friend asks her and Pushpavalli says, of course it is the job. Only, it probably isn’t… the object of her huge infatuation, the one she met at a Food Expo in Bhopal, lives in Bangalore and his fleeting comment on how she should come to Bangalore so that they can keep in touch, after he said how much fun he had with her, and also after a few legit flirtatious exchanges could be one reason behind this, or possibly the only reason behind this?
Psuhpavalli starts off as a harmless infatuated girl, bribing friendly ‘tea-boys’ to find information on the crush’s whereabouts. But soon, through flashbacks and a finely moving screenplay, we learn why she is doing (the mostly terrible things) that she is doing and why this ‘crush’ fellow means so much to her. As much as Pushpavalli esteems herself, all her actions are a direct derivative of the mad world she is brought up in. Picture being raised by a mother who may love her and care for her, but cannot seem to see anything beyond her weight and her skin color and how that automatically diminishes her chances of marriage in this seriously skewed marriage market.
Imagine a stand-up comedian when asked to look for a ‘blue’ wearing girl in the 4th row of his little crowd, automatically picks up the hot girl in that row and insults the other blue wearing girl, not once thinking that blue could also possibly mean this ‘other’ person too. Or the automatic contempt a much older and seemingly sorted woman throws at this chubby young woman once she learns that her father is dead and mother lives in Bhopal. Pushpavalli shows all of this so subtly, many people watching this series are in most likelihood going to miss the subtext, and instead yearn for more of the gradually declining humour or find themselves disgusted by where Pushpavalli (the person) is heading.
I have my reservations about the end. It seemed to be there for mere shock value, and yet it has given me something to chew on, something to think of as I soak in the rest of this amazing series that also in just a matter of those 4 odd hours, gives us more fantastically flawed women. Take Vasu, the PG ‘aunty’, played by the ‘sensational’ ex-Fever Bangalore RJ Shradha. Now, this is a woman you will hate for everything so obviously unlikable about her (and there is a lot there). But when a man coolly tries to flash himself at one of her PG inhabitants, she loses her mind, runs after him, and confronts him with such ferocity, you want to reach out to her and thank her with something like a tear in your eye.
Or take the object of affection of Pushpavalli’s boss cum ‘old friend’ – a young single mother who even if entitled, is refreshingly individualistic. And of course, all the other girls in Pushpavalli’s PG. There are two hoot-inducingly devilish girls who also don’t shy away from having ‘threesomes’ with gullible (when it comes to them only) young men. Or the foul-mouthed girl who has the most interesting way of moping around after finding her ‘boyfriend’ is an asshole. Or the firang-looking girl who talks about a missed period and PCOD as if it were a mere cold.
The men pale in comparison, but I guess that is the point, as it was in ‘Big Little Lies’. The women in themselves make up such an engaging world, you don’t quite miss knowing the men better.
Watch the trailer, if you haven’t seen this one already: