Suzhal: The Vortex, currently streaming on Prime Video, is a Tamil crime thriller spread over eight episodes. The show is created by the Pushkar-Gayathri team, responsible for films like Vikram Vedha (2017). A riveting watch, Suzhal: The Vortex probes into the lives and secrets of individuals living within the boundaries of the fictitious town of Sambaloor in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. It is to the series’ credit that it keeps us engrossed right through while delivering a devastating. knock-out punch at the end.
The series begins with a strike that takes place at a cement factory, which is set ablaze the same night. The union leader, Shanmugam (Parthiban Radhakrishanan), comes under suspicion and is arrested by the police. Simultaneously, Shanmugam’s adolescent daughter, Nila (Gopika Ramesh), is missing since the previous night. These incidents set in motion a nightmarish chain of events throwing the lives of the townsfolk into absolute turmoil. As senior inspector Regina (Shreya Reddy) and her able colleague, Sakkarai (Kathir), investigate the case, we are drawn into a complex whirlpool where everybody has his or her own dark secrets to hide…
The strength of Suzhal: The Vortex lies in its strong writing. The unfolding of the story binds together the characters and their motives most credibly. The series effectively brings out how the scars of our childhood can form an indelible scar on our psyche. At same time, the screenplay also depicts how the judgemental attitude of individuals can lead to a horrific effect on the lives of others. Moreover, by setting the events of the film within the duration of the ten-day-long Mayana Kollai festival, celebrated to worship the Goddess Angalaamman, the narrative contrasts how the religious activity symbolically intertwines with the lives of the townspeople. With a major plot twist in each episode, our engagement is assured.
Despite its well-knitted structure, Suzhal: The Vortex has its share of flaws. The big twist that appears around episode four appears stretched and hampers all the momentum the series had developed through the strengths of the first three episodes. Then there are certain red herrings that ,at times, appear to be forcefully imposed upon the narrative such as Nila’s post-mortem report, or revealing a supporting character as a child abuser all of a sudden. It also doesn’t help that the two directors of the series, Bramma G and Anucharan Murugaiyan, fail to elevate the screenplay with their direction. While the series does break down some time-honoured tropes as it shows us that a rich and privileged individual need not always be villainous or that a young and guileless person can also hatch a plan of blackmail and murder, it is still inundated with melodramatic hyperboles from popular Tamil films. In an age where OTT platforms provide liberty to create more innovative narrative forms, the treatment of the series is not sleek and stylized enough to push the envelope of cinematic exploration.
However, the downs are more than overcome by the fine performances of the entire ensemble cast. Kathir as the enthusiastic police officer Sakkarai delivers a convincing and credible portrayal of an individual who will leave no stone unturned to unravel the truth. Parthiban as Shanmugam breathes life into the difficult character of a factory worker who tries to control a destiny beyond his reach. As the patriarch of a fractured family, he delivers a controlled portrayal of his personal anguish where we empathize with his sad plight. On the other side, Shreya Reddy lends restraint and warmth to her portrayal as Regina, a woman caught between the ethical dilemma of motherhood and her duty-bound profession. Aishwarya Rajesh as Nila’s sister Nandini, who comes back to her hometown, displays a wide range of complex emotions with ease. Harish Uthaman as Trilok Vadde makes us abhor his presence within the narrative with his hateful act. The rest of the supporting cast of the series are more than adequate.
On the technical front, the cinematography by Mukeswaran ably sets up a gloomy, mysterious and enigmatic mood that draws us into the maze-like world of the town. The editing by Richard Kevin keeps up the tempo of the series perfectly. Even when the narrative falters, his taut cutting keeps it from getting monotonous. The background score by Sam CS balances the emotional and suspenseful moments nicely to lift the storytelling a notch or two.
Overall, Suzhal: The Vortex stands out for its absorbing plot-driven narrative and the commendable performances from the cast thus making it binge-worthy. If only the directors had shown a little more audacity in their cinematic execution, it could have scaled far greater creative heights. As it is, it’s eminently watchable but stops short of ‘being there’.
Tamil, Thriller, Drama, Color
The trailer of the series can be viewed here.