Murder mysteries Television shows/ web series are not uncommon at this point. Many production houses out there in the OTT space are milking this genre. Series that stand out in this genre are “PaatalLok,” “Asur,” “Delhi Crime,” and “Aarya.” What makes “Suzhal: The Vortex” worth watching?
“Suzhal: The Vortex” is an Amazon Prime Video original, a Tamil language web series created by Pushkar-Gayathri and directed by Bramma G. and Anucharan Murugaiyan. The Pushkar-Gayathri duo is known for delivering noir-influenced cinema-like “Vikram Vedha.” The series, released on June 17th, 2022, is a tale of many things that come together to form a solid drama adorned with unexpected twists. The show has family dynamics, familial rivalries, a police investigation, and a factory on the way to closure. The series covers such subjects and many more subplots as it progresses.
The series begins with a union strike by the factory workers, paralyzing the cement factory owned by Trilok Vadde and his father, Mukesh Vadde, in the town of Sembaloor, Tamil Nadu. As tensions rise between the workers and the owners, the factory goes up in flames, destroying the entire premise. The town of Sembaloor is simultaneously celebrating the Mayana Kollai, a nine-day annual festival that celebrates Goddess Angalamman’s victory over demons. Shanmugham, the father of two young daughters, Nandini and Nila, is horrified to learn of his daughter Nila’s disappearance during all the festivities that began and the factory that was set on fire. The entire town rallies behind him to find the truth. V. Regina Thomas and her subordinate, Chakravarthy, fondly known as Sakkarai, are on it to arrest Shanmugham for the factory fire, but soon discover evidence surrounding the disappearance of Nila. The situation snowballs, and soon Regina Thomas’s son Adhisayam, accused of stalking Nila, is treated as the main suspect in Nila’s disappearance. Trilok Vadde requests insurance compensation because of the destruction of his factory and comes under investigation from the insurance company itself, a veteran fireman following him to find out if the fire was caused deliberately to claim the insurance money. All these plots and subplots form the crux of the show, and Suzhal makes sure the audiences will be on the edge of their seat till the end of it.
“Suzhal: The Vortex” is easily one of the best series in the small-town murder mystery genre. Everything about the setup is murky, disturbing, and divine. The investigations paralleling the Mayana Kollai festival add to the puzzle. The mirroring of the incidents with the stories of Goddess Angalamman is a treat to watch. The story of Suzhal is mesmerizing, haunting, and carries a spiritual quality that runs parallel to the investigation around Nila and the arson at the cement factory. Like an onion, layers after layers in the narrative start coming out, keeping the viewers hooked, and as the end layer approaches, the shock value that the story carries is worth the wait.
Writers Pushkar and Gayathri, inspired by Broadchurch, present something similar set in the small town of Tamil Nadu, untouched by high-profile crimes except corruption. The story of a young girl disappearing on the first day of the Mayana Kollai festival is eerily like another case of a young girl disappearing from the same town ten years ago on the onset of the same festival. The goddess and her curse are the talk of the town, and Shanmugham’s nonbelief in the town’s faith adds to the murmurs. The story of “Suzhal: The Vortex” has been tried and tested by many makers in the past. The only reason Suzhal stands out is the treatment of the story. The screenplay plays a huge part in making Suzhal extraordinary. The connecting of the dots, well-constructed flashback sequences, and placement of the Devi/goddess imagery with the narrative do wonders for it. The screenplay did leave a few plot points unexplained as they were introduced, but the writers neither bothered to close them nor explain the reason behind setting in motion a certain subplot. Nevertheless, Pushkar-Gayathri’s screenplay is a winner. The writers don’t shy away from tackling the subjects of trauma, sexual abuse, sexuality, and assault. Even though the climax of Suzhal is predictable, it is the execution that uplifts the entire climax sequence.
Each character the writers build through the eight episodes goes through ups and downs, wondering if one is ahead while the other is slightly behind. Writing is an eye-opener as the show halfway through changes all perceptions audiences have created about various characters. Characters in the show wonder about the same people surrounding them day and night in this small town. They seem to not know anyone at all. The screenplay adds moments of brilliance such as this, which makes the narrative intriguing. A parent, not knowing what the child is up to or experiencing, a local who has lived in the same town for years, is unable to come to terms with things he/she hears as the investigation progresses.
Directors G and Anucharan Murugaiyan, throughout the eight episodes, seem to be in sync with the writing of the show. The direction of Suzhal shines through the screen. Bramma and Anucharan each directed four episodes, and the solid execution of a solid screenplay for the screen is visible as each episode ends. Exceptional cinematography by Mukeswaran adds an extra layer to the narrative as the imagery of the goddess and what it represents is projected wonderfully. The editing and dubbing of Suzhal were a bit off at parts, but such small errors can be overlooked as they don’t affect the show overall.
A strong screenplay such as “Suzhal: The Vortex” requires a strong cast, and there is no dearth of good actors in it. The series has an exceptional ensemble cast, each delivering power-packed performances. Kathir as Sakkarai, Aishwarya Rajesh as the traumatized sister Nandini, Shreya Reddy as Inspector Regina Thomas, Gopika Ramesh as Nila, Fredrick John as Adhisayam, Parthiban Radhakrishnan as Shanmugham, Yusuf Hussain as Mukesh Vadde, Harish Uthaman as Trilok Vadde, Kumaravel as Guna, Latha Rao as Selvi and many more deliver masterful performances. Not one actor seems out of place, and neither do they seem unnecessary in the bigger scheme of things in the plot. Each character plays an important role in taking the story forward.
“Suzhal: The Vortex” is one of the mind-bending web series, a show that pushes the boundaries of camerawork, direction, and screenplay writing. Suzhal is a must-watch because it allows you to be amazed by its imagery, divinity, and storytelling.