Sunflower, On ZEE5, Is An Uneven Mix Of Sparkling And Stretched

The show's self-congratulatory "quirkiness" is far too in-your-face to be effective
Sunflower, On ZEE5, Is An Uneven Mix Of Sparkling And Stretched

Somewhere in the middle of Sunflower, a character comes to fetch Sonu Singh (Sunil Grover) and declares, "Hum ek gutthi nahi suljha pa rahe." This, of course is a tribute to the character Grover immortalised in Comedy Nights with Kapil and a summary of this show. Sunflower is an eight episode-long riddle that meanders throughout. It's a whodunnit with a difference: it tells us who the murderer is in the first episode itself. What follows is a police investigation as well as several subplots that inconsistently range between delicious and boring.

The show revolves around the murder of Mr. Raj Kapoor, a resident of the Sunflower society, from which the show takes its name. So while we see familiar interrogation scenes and perplexed police officers, there's also a running thread about neighbours and their lives. One track follows Dilip Iyer, an uncle standing for society president and trying to make the society "family-friendly". In other words, he's homophobic, misogynistic and narrow-minded all at once. In one scene he says, "Culture modern nahi hota, culture culture hota hai." This track is played for laughs in the beginning but Iyer's oppression of his wife, daughter and nearly everyone around him quickly becomes odious and eventually a bit tiring to watch.

This is exactly the problem with Sunflower: every scene is stretched to breaking point, and the writing by Vikas Bahl shines momentarily but remains feeble for most of the part. Except for Sunil Grover and Ranvir Shorey, everyone else is a stereotype. We have the innocent small-town girl with big dreams, the corrupt police officer, the precocious kid… the list goes on. The show also overuses its background score, and its self-congratulatory "quirkiness" is far too in-your-face to be effective. I know comedies may require a suspension of disbelief, and I'm all for that, but Sunflower has such outlandish scenes that they border on caricature. Some scenes, such as a whole subplot involving a snooty father (who happens to be Sonu's boss) and his daughter, feel as if they've been extracted from a Housefull movie. The dialogue is as inconsistent, and while some lines are pure genius (such as the conversation between two police officers discussing village ghosts over a cup of tea and a dead body), we also hear characters say things like, "When I catch this crook, I will kill him." The show hints at a larger theme, and tries to deliver some subtext, but it doesn't come through because directors Rahul Sengupta and Vikas Bahl cannot salvage the mediocre material.

But Sunflower isn't all bad. It has some lovely moments as well. There are some crackling bits amidst the chaos, and the terrific performances help uplift a show that would've otherwise been an inglorious mess. Sunil Grover captures the nuances of Sonu with gusto and he portrays him with absolute conviction. His acting style may be reminiscent of the comedy he performs on television, but he imbues Sonu with humanity and a kindness that make you root for him. He puts his melancholic eyes and tight-lipped smile to great use and turns out to be the best thing about this lukewarm show. Ranvir Shorey matches him step for step. He doesn't have as much to work with, but Shorey gifts his character an inherent decency, which makes him likeable. The supporting cast, Girish Kulkarni, Mukul Chadda, Ashish Vidyarthi and even Simran Nerurkar, are wonderful.

However, despite the solid cast, Sunflower is far too tepid to be effective. The fault lies in the writing, which deprives the screenplay of any sort of shape or form whatsoever. There are a few gems sprinkled here and there, but the show is ultimately too flimsy to be memorable.

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