In a country where the first stage of love is stalking, comes a show, well about a stalker. Pushpavalli, streaming on Amazon Prime, stars the creator Sumukhi Suresh as the protagonist who leaves her home in Bhopal to follow her crush, Nikhil to Bangalore. The show bends the norm of popular culture. It thrusts the hypocrisy of judgment throwing internet dwellers by putting a woman in the shoes of the stalker this time.
Other than that it pretty much plays with already existing stereotypes and exploits them sometimes as minute fillers and sometimes to drive home a social message all the while keeping the element of comedy alive. Pushpavalli’s mother’s character plays on the much exploited trope of the quintessential Indian mother. She is obsessed with getting her married, harangues her about meeting boys, her “chubbiness” and her work place which she refers to as a crèche instead of what it actually is, a children’s library.
Other stereotypes from the show include Pushpavalli’s PG landlady, Vasu. She’s loud mouthed, speaks in a mix of Kannada and broken English and has regressive rules set for the girls. But she manages to be one of the characters I looked forward to seeing on screen and speaking of characters like that I can’t help but mention T-boi. He’s a tea stall vendor near Nikhil’s workplace and also serves as Pushpavalli’s spy.
One of my favorite things about the way that character is written is how he keeps trying to guess Pushpavalli’s interest in Nikhil’s activities. His guesses are pretty wild, like Nikhil being Pushpavalli’s sister’s cheating husband who she’s come to keep an eye on. But moving cities and changing jobs to stalk a man you’re interested in (which is the actual reason) is bat shit crazy for even tire stealing, weedy-smile-carrying T-Boi.
Pushpavalli is a woman living in her own world, she’s witty, selfish, a compulsive liar and lacks ambition and motivation if you remove Nikhil from her life. She has none of the traits you look for in a traditional protagonist and that is what makes the show work. That and the way the show’s writing blends elements of darkness into comedy. Like a typical show, you do not root for Pushpavalli, but you also aren’t detached enough to see her getting her comeuppance.
To sum it all up watch Pushpavalli for well-crafted characters like Pankaj – Pushpavalli’s boss and the nihilist drama loving twins that are her roommates. Watch it for how the show does not romanticize the concept of stalking. And lastly watch it for Sumukhi Suresh’s very convincing portrayal of Pushpavalli – a character you can neither love nor ignore.
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