The new Amazon Prime video series Suzal: The Vortex is currently the talk of the town. Shortly after its release on the streaming platform, Crime Thriller has received praise from critics and praise from fans. But its creators – husband-and-wife filmmakers Pushkar and Gayatri – initially say they weren’t too sure about the reception. In a freewheeling chat with Hindustan Times, he talks about the success of the show, its natural Indianness and how the show’s tone came to them during a random tour. Also Read: Vikram Veda director duo helm original series for Amazon
There is talk of this event everywhere from social media to industry. Everyone wants success, but did you expect this kind of response?
Pushkar: We weren’t sure. This is our first entry into the web series field. Therefore, we have no experience and no metric on how people respond. In a movie, everything ultimately depends on the theater collections of that day. So, we were blessed with all those responses.
Gayatri: Every time we saw tweets from Tamil Nadu and outside, it was very nice. This is a Tamil show, but dubbing and crossing all barriers.
Pushkar: Plenty of people in the industry are calling us rather than appearing on social media. We couldn’t wait for people to watch eight episodes of heavy content throughout the night and call us the next morning. We thought they would start calling in the middle of this week. By Saturday afternoon, the calls had begun to come to us.
The story is universal – the girl is missing in a small town – but the treatment is very Indian as you bring into it the unique delicacy of Maya Bay. Your stories – be it or Vikram Veda – have always had a connection with Indian folk. Why is that?
Pushkar: When we started writing this, it was an investigative play with a focus on how crime in a small town affects the social structure there and the inner-outer. How we cloud our judgment by what kind of people we are. Those are the things we were going for. At that time, we saw the Mayana Kolli Micro Festival in a small town near Vellore. We asked the driver, who was a local, and he gave us some background and we both looked at each other and said, ‘It fits. Is the subject of this same story ’. So when that happened we were in the middle of the story.
Gayatri: A lot of our myths are based on people there, especially folk. They are all very close to our hearts. These are the stories of people who lived long ago. We like this idea that myth mixes with reality. That space is very interesting.
To me, as Pushkar said, Suzal is a story about perceptions or judgments. What was the idea behind putting that mentality into the story?
Gayatri: We always try to group people into characters. Putting people into slots is easy for all of us. It’s easy to judge. That’s part of human nature, and we take it so lightly that we don’t even know it. We all tend to judge the book from home. We wanted to explore and the longer form lends itself to playing with it.
Pushkar: Nandini (Aishwarya Rajesh) is the main image from a scene showing a box of sugar (katir) and how the shadow is rectangular from one place and circle from another. It’s about how you change things from where you stand. This is one of the first things that propels the story. That is the central idea of each character.
As I said, the story is universal. At the top of my head, a similar plot has been used in Broadchurch or as far back as Twin Peaks. Did those stories influence your writing in any way?
Pushkar: We see it all. We have seen so many programs in the small town with the idea of ’missing girl’. There is Broadchurch, The Killing, Mair of Eastown. It is a genre in itself. There is so much around it. So we wanted to take that genre and see how we can come up with this idea of judging people and people with multiple sides and see it in an Indian way of dealing with emotions.
Gayatri: We wanted to make storytelling as Indian as possible. You see, the music is pretty packed, and the visuals are all over your face, completely exploding. And who we are. We wanted to embrace Indianness.
Over the past few months, the film industry has seen this wave of South Indian films doing really well in the North, sometimes at the expense of Hindi films. Do you think that the success of Suzal could start something like that for Southern shows?
Pushkar: We are looking for an Indian voice. Everyone should be able to afford it. We are one of the few countries that has resisted the onslaught of these big Hollywood films.
Gayatri: Only our cinema is still strong. Otherwise, there are no European Masters or South American Masters. Mostly, Hollywood has taken over.
Pushkar: So rather than think about taking over a state, we should look at all the stuff that comes out as Indians. It can be in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu or Bengali. Everything adds to the diversity of content we are capable of offering.