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Review: ‘Pushpavalli’ Season Two is a Deliciously-Written (& Completely Devious) Revenge Story

By Salva Mubarak 19 March 2020

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The worst kind of shows are when you start mindlessly scrolling through Instagram while watching an episode. The best kind? Those that make you question your moral compass (and some life choices).

Amazon Prime Video’s Pushpavalli season two does not begin right where it left us. You feel a moment of relief as you see the titular Pushpavalli (played by Sumukhi Suresh) getting ready for her engagement. You let yourself believe JUST for a second that maybe the last we saw of her (poring over the CCTV footage from her love interest, Nikhil’s house), was something that you imagined. You even allow yourself the luxury of believing that Pushpavalli has, in fact, moved on from her obsession. SPOILER ALERT: she has not. While season one’s Pushpavalli just wanted a happy ending with Nikhil, now she is singularly-focussed on taking revenge.

While season one’s Pushpavalli just wanted a happy ending with Nikhil, now she is singularly-focussed on taking revenge.

In the first season, Pushpavalli moves cities to be closer to Nikhil (played by Manish Anand), and displays alarming obsessive traits (including getting a job on the same street as his office and stealing his dog to get his attention). The season ended with all her manipulations being exposed and a justifiably-furious Nikhil asking her to stay away from him. While the beginning of season two teases us with a happy ending for Pushpavalli and her fiance (played by Vidyuth Gagri), we quickly realise that she’s back to her old ways when we see her coordinating with T-boi (Ashok Pathak).

With Pushpavalli 2, director Debbie Rao and writers Sumukhi Suresh, Naveen Richard (who also plays Pankaj, her friend and boss), and Ayesha Nair attempt to subvert the classic tale of a scorned woman out to avenge herself.

With Pushpavalli 2, director Debbie Rao and writers Sumukhi Suresh, Naveen Richard (who also plays Pankaj, her friend and boss), and Ayesha Nair attempt to subvert the classic tale of a scorned woman out to avenge herself.

Over the eight episodes, each with a runtime of around 25 minutes, we’re taken through Pushpavalli’s sociopathic schemes to get back at Nikhil for humiliating her. She doesn’t care who she hurts or destroys in this quest. Every time she starts falling for Nikhil’s charms again, she reminds herself of all the hurtful things he said to her. Nothing—not even a slightly-softened Nikhil—can make her forget.

The show gets major points for successfully avoiding a preachy tone. While the previous season did explore Pushpavalli’s body image issues, the gender dynamics when it comes to pursuing a romantic relationship, and her mother’s constant insistence that she will have to settle for anyone who agrees to marry her, it never sermonised. Here, too, it’s left up to us to make up our minds whether we want her hare-brained schemes to succeed or for her to get caught so that someone can point her in the direction of a good therapist. This season is a bit like watching a car crash. You want to stop it and help, but there’s also a dark part of you that wants to see what would happen if you just stood by and watched.

This season is a bit like watching a car crash. You want to stop it and help, but there’s also a dark part of you that wants to see what would happen if you just stood by and watched.

Sumukhi, as Pushpavalli, is nearly flawless. She does the impossible of making us feel sympathy towards a character like hers, making her almost disturbingly relatable in places. I had to catch myself whenever I sighed with relief as she got away with one of her plans and remind myself that what she’s doing is SO WRONG. Her brilliantly expressive face, paired with her sharp writing, makes her character incredibly complex—instead of being just one-note.

Manish Anand’s Nikhil remains as charming as he was last season, but also makes you want to shake him by the shoulder and scream ‘How are you falling for all this again?!’. Maybe it’s the writers’ way of showing male privilege through Nikhil’s easy acceptance of this new and seemingly improved version of Pushpavalli. Only a man can afford to be this clueless about the intentions of his former stalker.

Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Vidyuth Gagri, as Pushpavalli’s fiancé provides a cold splash of water to the viewer’s face whenever we start getting lulled into the justifications of Pushpavalli’s revenge scheme. He serves to remind us of the moral implications of her actions, that she duly ignores, and how she is ruining his life in the exact same way Nikhil, supposedly, ruined hers.

The supporting cast is solid. Naveen Richard’s Pankaj, Pushpavalli’s ornery boss and reluctant friend, is great and constantly makes you wonder how much he spends on blood pressure regulating pills. Special shout out to the Animal Centre manager (Shravan Ramakrishnan) whose song to attract an errant snake is one of the highlights of the season for me. What didn’t work for me were some of the side characters, namely Pushpavalli’s roommates, whose morbid, creepy twin-schtick is just not as funny anymore.

The show has an (literally) explosive ending, perfectly setting it up for another season. Which begs the question: Is season three happening, Amazon Prime?

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