Review Of November Story, Out on Disney+ Hotstar: A Snail-paced Thriller With More Ambition Than Focus
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Director: Indhra Subramanian

Cast: Tamannaah, GM Kumar, Pasupathy, Vivek Prasanna, Aruldass

The new Hotstar Special November Story appears to have been originally imagined as a movie. There are several interesting strands to this story, some of which could have been compressed into a two-hour thriller. The most obvious is that of a daughter (Anu, played by Tamannah) struggling to look after her ailing father Ganesan (GM Kumar). The crime novelist is losing his battle against Alzheimer’s and he hopes to finish his last book before all is lost, with the help of his daughter. 

Anu too has own set of battles to fight. She is trying to sell their old house so she can continue taking care of Ganesan’s medical expenses. Ganesan refuses to sell and we witness the tug of war between the father and daughter. Despite a setup for a family drama, November Story is anything but that. A murder is committed at their old house and suddenly everyone’s a culprit, especially Ganesan. 

But there’s a dozen other things happening as well. Anu is working for an IT services company that does data management for the police force. We also get elaborate black-and-white prologues before each episode about an orphan growing up wanting to become a doctor. And they throw in a hacking angle where important police files go missing and a subplot involving three medical students on the run. Also, there is obviously the police force investigating the murder. 

Confused? This is pretty much what you’re going to be feeling through most of the seven episode series. It tries to integrate these angles into an already complex screenplay that uses multiple flashbacks, multiple colour tones across multiple time periods. To understand how convoluted it is, all one has to do is narrate the screenplay to oneself in a simple, linear fashion. That’s when you understand how good the ideas are and the impact it may have had on a less tired viewer. 

But everything has to be complicated in November Story. What does Anu do to try and sell the house? She gets a fake death certificate for her father. Does it matter later on? Hardly. It’s a show that is set in a realistic zone yet it never appears to the police officers to check the CCTV around the crime scene even though Anu appears to be doing so. And why does it take so long for the police to address the fact that they haven’t found the victim, even though there are many possible murderers? 

Let’s set aside logic but shouldn’t these strands still be brought together somehow? But the writers have all but one solution for this: a coincidence. How does a police officer find the involvement of a second set of people? Because he sits next to a random police officer from another station who happens to be investigating a murder that took place on the same day. And later, how do these cops find one of the missing links in the murder case? When one of the accused lands up right in front of the cops’ car when they’re casually driving around. And how does Anu find the exact location of a future crime scene? She just starts looking for clues on the scribbles on their wall (something she didn’t do when her dad went missing earlier). 

The show leaves you with dozens of such questions with each episode. You wouldn’t mind it if the complexity of the situation or the characters warranted it. But we’ve already arrived at the ‘whodunit’ bit way before the show has, so it’s only really about the ‘why do it?’. Yet all the major twists are left for the last episode. Before that, we get a shockingly pointless episode where the whole police force in a station discuss the various permutations of the case in painfully basic details. Even Anu’s role in the whole case is questionable. At one point, the whereabouts of the suspect becomes obvious to her, yet we never understand why she doesn’t call upon the cops or her best friends who were with her just minutes earlier. 

All this in a story that could have been compelling if it had been told simply. We get an intense, almost mythical situation about a man who deals with death and his mindset changes when he has to finally discover the miracle of birth. The series even deals with the concept of guilt and what it can do to a person’s mind after a long time. With moody, atmospheric cinematography by the talented Vidhu Ayyana, and a great performance by Pasupathy, the show demands better writing to accompany its other crafts. 

An important character in the series is named Annie ‘Fincher’ and you get what they were going for with its grainy, green tones and its complex narrative structure. November Story could have at least been satisfying for its lofty ambitions. As a movie, a lot of it would have worked because it would have demanded the focus. Without it, it is just a meandering, indulgent mess and a waste of some great ideas. 

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