Sunflower Review: Characters with great personal stories but irrelevant tracks
  • Platform: Zee5
  • Release Date: 11/6/21
  • Cast: Sunil Grover, Mukul Chadda, Ashish Vidyarthi, Ranveer Shorey, Annapurna Soni
  • Director: Vikas Bahl and Rahul Sengupta

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

Sunflower is the story of a man who is hounded by the police for being different. Not bad. Not crass. Not criminal. Just different. Sonu Singh (Sunil Grover) looks at the world through a lens that God has customized for him. He is at peace with every circumstance and he is so much at peace that at times, the world thinks that he is looney. Then I asked myself, wasn’t his approach towards life the sanest and thought out. What would I achieve by taking tension? What would I achieve by mincing back my words? What would I achieve by trying to emulate a lone wolf and not jump into an unforeseen circumstance involving a girl that I like and would want to hit it out with? Sonu does things in a way that the situation demands and that he feels like doing. He is not devoid of emotions but he has a detached approach towards it. What is best about him is his ability to always do and say the right things. He always has a smile on his face. This proves to be his biggest problem in a world that is filled with smart, calculated, and conniving men and women who know everything about life except its core value — naturality and innocence.  

Raj Kapoor (Ashwin Kaushal) is an obnoxious and troublesome neighbor residing at the Sunflower Apartments. He has been having a dirty feud with his next-door neighbor, Ahuja (Mukul Chadda). Within the first few minutes of the series, his coconut juice is spiked with a deadly poison by Ahuja resulting in his death. The police are brought in to investigate the death and after investigation and toxicological evaluation, they conclude that the man was poisoned to death. Thus begins the police’s investigation into the case and the resident that they are most suspicious about in the building is Sonu Singh. The reason for their suspicion is sometimes his oddball mannerism and sometimes things that unfortunately point to his involvement in the modus oparandi of the murder but almost always turns out to be something that he did for a different reason. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative of this thriller that plays with the ideas of tunnel vision, societal inclusivity, unrequited love, and appalling social stereotypes. The series has a healthy dose of comedy too.

The strength of Sunflower lies in its characters, their personal stories, and the fantastic rendering of these characters by a gamut of talented actors. Sunil Grover plays Sonu Singh with organic ease and a stupendous sense of comic timing. The character is rendered funny just by how well Grover judges the various beats of the character and delivers an effective dose of comedy through his performance. He repeats certain dialogues more than once to extract comedy and they do. His mannerisms are the biggest source of comedy; especially when he is either hitting on a girl or is trying to stick around and get noticed. This happens throughout the narrative and yet never gets repetitive or unfunny. Grover is also able to extract a lot of sympathy for the character towards the end when we learn how badly he was hurt by a girl who he loved dearly. This girl dumps him for just being a simpleton and because she was convinced to do so by a man whose motivations to convince her are questionable. Sonu Singh’s character is elevated to a whole new level owing to this one little scene wherein he accepts the disdain of his girlfriend with a smiling face and heart-wrenching ease. 

Mukul Chadda plays the character of Ahuja with the kind of urgency that makes the character real. I loved the fact that the director made it a point to show us through flashbacks the genesis of the rivalry between Ahuja and Kapoor and how things got so bad between the two that Ahuja decided to kill Kapoor. He violently oscillates between satisfaction at having pulled off the perfect murder and fear and anxiety of not being able to dispose of all the evidence of the murder and completely dissolving himself from the crime in the eyes of the law. This oscillation creates a lot of drama and leads to some intense moments. By the end of it all, when he finally believes that he has got rid of all the evidence implicating him, he realizes that one evidence that remains of the crime is one that he cannot get rid of. This realization works as the perfect summation of the arch that Chadda’s character goes through in the series.

One of my favorite characters in the series was that of the maid played by Annapurna Soni. Her portions were so well written and the performance was so on point that it catapulted her character to a greater height. The many interrogations that she has to endure from the police and the way she changes her statement based on the lies that are caught by the police were hilariously funny. I just loved her altercations with the actor playing the security guard. The dialogues in these portions were spot on and extracted situational comedy in the best possible way. Ashish Vidyarthi as a resident of the apartment who is gunning for the position of the secretary of the building is terrific. He has a problem with almost everything that is not as per his definition of what is culturally, morally, and stylistically correct. We see him mostly through interviews that he conducts of people who are looking for flats in the apartment and in every interview, we learn of his inhibitions about anything that is slightly left to the right.

Having said all that, the problem with Sunflower lies in the fact that each of these different tracks does not necessarily club together to present an engaging and immersive whole. It must also be noted that most of these portions are not key to the central plot of the series and hence only adds to the piling runtime of the series without contributing anything to the plot or the intrigue of the story. The fact that we learn of who the murderer is in the first 10 minutes of the series also ensures that there are no surprises related to the discovery of the murderer. The makers try to introduce certain elements about Sonu that points to the fact that he might be involved in the murder but that gets left off in a hurry and the series culminates abruptly.  I would have loved for this series to have ended more convincingly. I would have loved or it to have had a more focused narrative wherein the various characters and subplots were interwoven into the central murder case. I would have loved for the series to be a lot snappier and faster in its pacing. Sunil Grover and the entire cast of characters nearly take away our attention from the deficiencies of the series with their fantastic performances. But the performances that were this good deserved a better narrative, screenplay, and execution. 

Also Read | The Death of Stalin: A rip-roaring social commentary about the death of the Russian tyrant and his succeeder

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