Saturday, Dec 03, 2022 | Last Update : 06:05 PM IST
Sunflower (series on Zee5); Cast: Sunil Grover, Ranvir Shorey, Girish Kulkarni, Ashish Vidyarthi, Mukul Chadda, Radha Bhatt, Annapurna Soni, Dayana Erappa, Shonali Nagrani, Sonal Jha, Saloni Khanna, Ashwin Kaushal; Created by: Vikas Bahl; Rating: * * and half (two and a half stars)
BY VINAYAK CHAKRAVORTY
"Sunflower" keeps you guessing all the way, all right -- but that's because the show tries to do too many things, diluting the impact of the dark comedy thrills it should have stuck to. It's starts on a different sort of a high as a murder mystery, showing you the murder (and murderer) right at the start. The screenplay then struggles to weaves enough suspense drama to sustain interest through its eight episodes.
Creator Vikas Bahl's writing tries setting a quirky tone while lacing the plot spins. The fun factor is mostly brought alive by an interesting ensemble cast, for Bahl and co-director Rahul Sengupta have got the casting bang-on. The handpicked set of actors living out the protagonists of the show bring alive even the most insane moments in the story and end up its primary redeeming feature.
Where Bahl and Sengupta's 'casting' really scores is the choice of Sunflower itself. That's the name of the housing society where the murder and its aftermath unfolds. Bahl and Sengupta have chosen an apt premise -- a sprawling society with multiple wings, once magnificent and in somewhat neglect now. The architecture with its overhanging crisscross of beams becomes backdrop for a couple of crucial (and comical) scenes. Sunflower the housing society is a microcosm of Mumbai, a weird mix of oddity, orthodoxy and rebellion. Bahl's writing relishes in letting the titular building be the sole mute spectator of all that goes on.
Yet the mystery and the way it unfolds never really comes alive. At the centre of the plot is the murder of Mr Kapoor (Ashwin Kaushal). He is killed in a rather ingenious manner by his neighbour and bete noire, Mr Ahuja (Mukul Chadda), as the story begins. The cops arrive, with Inspector Digendra (Ranvir Shorey) and Inspector Tambe (Girish Kulkarni) in charge. Everyone in the society plus the support staff is a suspect, but the focus falls on the happy-go-lucky bachelor Sonu Singh (Sunil Grover), who lives a few floors below the victim and gets tangled in the probe in a bizarre manner.
The story moves following the police probe as the men in uniform try piecing together evidence to crack the case. Had the storyline stuck to just that, this could have been a good enough watch. Instead, the narrative introduces unnecessary diversions. A lot of the scenes that add up to very little seem to have been inserted to justify the presence of the more 'established' actors in the show. This includes Ashish Vidyarthi as the conservative Mr Iyer who is gunning to be RWA president and won't allow anyone with specific cast, gender, profession, marital status, or sexuality in the society. Scenes of the RWA 'interview' of applicant tenants distract from the basic narrative of the murder mystery. Similarly, a lot of the comedy involving Sunil Grover, though hilarious, cuts down on the core storytelling.
Still, the cast is the big reason why the series clicks. Sunil Grover, towering over all in an authorbacked role, proves again he is a talent who just needs to be tapped with the right role. Grover makes Sonu impish and stupid at the same time. He keeps it cool and comical when Sonu is in charge, just as when he is caught with his pants down (literally) and, yes -- if you're a Gutthi fan -- he does get to wear the skirt at one point and he pulls it off with vintage aplomb.
Ashish Vidyarthi as the conservative Iyer, Mukul Chadda as Ahuja, Radha Bhatt as his wife, Ranvir Shorey and Girish Kulkarni as the inspectors, and Annapurna Soni as the domestic help are particularly worth mention, adding to the humour and the drama.
"Sunflower" is an okay watch but with some more focus in writing could have had the essential resonance to stick in your mind as an entertainer. The season ends on an open-ended high. You're left hoping season two, if at all, is more cohesive while taking forward the story.