A big, fat 'F you'
Back with a second season, Sumukhi Suresh in and as Pushpavalli, raises relevant questions on low self-worth, oddball chemistry between the sexes and why it's okay to be grey
The second season of Pushpavalli starts with actor and writer Sumukhi Suresh dressed up for her engagement. Her eyes are welled up when her mother walks in and says, "Started? Every time, something good happens, you have to cry. This boy doesn't even mind that you are plump." But Pushpavalli, as always, is faking it. Once her mother leaves the room, she is back to her old ways—lying, scheming, manipulating. All because the object of her affection, businessman Nikhil Rao, doesn't reciprocate her love. And once again, you are hooked.
If season one of the web series was about Pushpavalli Parsuraman stalking and wooing Rao, and following him all the way to Bengaluru, season two is about revenge after he shuns her—by making him feel jealous. The revenge of the fat girl, who as the show reveals is not always nice. "People relate to Pushpavalli not because she is a stalker, but because she is insecure. Women get it immediately. Even the prettiest and skinniest ones feel insecure [at some point]," says Suresh.
A still from the show that shows Pushpavalli ready for her engagement
The show could remind you of the American TV series, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, where the lead follows her high school sweetheart to his town, or British runaway success Fleabag, where the protagonist is dysfunctional and self-destructive, but also highly original, thanks to its characters and witty writing. Suresh shines as the protagonist, who she says is like her, and the rest of the cast manages to equally impress. As Suresh says, everyone in the writing room brought along their own personal experiences and love for writing to the character. They had a few things they kept in mind, though—Pushpavalli wasn't good or bad, but grey. "We never take her side. We treat her in the worst way possible. She pays for her deeds as well as everyone else's." Stand-up comic Naveen Richard, who is part of the writing team, and plays Pankaj—the man who runs a library and gives Suresh's character a job—adds, "We realised that as long as we showed that she never gets away with her deviousness, it would be fine. She gets put down and yelled at a lot. She is only devious when she is alone; at other times, she is paavam. The other thing is that everyone else in the show seems capable of finding love, except her." That's why, as Suresh says, Pushpavalli is hell bent on getting love with a tedi ungli.
Unlike the TV show, Mike and Molly, where the fat girl gets an equally fat husband, Pushpavalli is in love with a good looker, who could be considered way out of her league. And even though the protagonist is toxic and trying to get love and acceptance through the worst ways possible, the show does question the age-old social standards of what beauty is—be it for women or men. "We wanted a boy who has naturally charming looks and Manish Anand brought that flawlessly to the table while portraying Nikhil. But we made him a bhindi seller, because not every cute boy works in an advertising office and drinks black coffee. And well, Pushpavalli is who she is. The aim is to say that chemistry isn't always physical. When they chat, they engage in repartee, they have wit. You forget that they are so different, physically."
Stand-up comic Naveen Richard’s character is Suresh's employer and friend
What Pushpavalli also does is takes the psycho girl trope and makes it acceptable, and well, normalise it. "So Sumukhi and Sumaira [Shaikh, co-writer] would run these situations by me, like what if she does this, and I would be like, 'no way'. Then they would present case studies to me. So I left that part of the devious writing to them!" laughs Richard. Could it be that they are saying it's okay to be the 'pyscho chick'? "Of course it's okay," says Suresh. "I did the same—move cities for a boy—and I am okay. Who do you think that plot line is based on? It comes down to low self worth, and now we are working on getting it to 'medium' self worth. I would never repeat my mistakes. It's okay. You did a psycho thing, and you move on. And that's the thing with Pushpavalli—she is problematic, but you will have empathy for her, since you know why she did what she did."
As the audience waits for season three, Suresh will be writing a show based on her mother. For now, she, the actors and writers are basking in the positive feedback. "Men message me to say they are creeped out by this character and I tell them to get lost. Big girls are reaching out to me, saying that we have captured their insecurity bang on. They are happy to be represented. They also say—you look so good! I didn't know I could wear those clothes. I never imagined [I could make] this sort of impact."
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