What is the story about?
In the Sunflower housing complex in Mumbai, Raj Kapoor, a businessman, is poisoned to death by Mr and Mrs Ahuja, who live in the flat opposite his. As the Ahujas scramble to cover up their crime, local cops DG and Tambe try to investigate his murder by questioning all residents of the complex, which includes introverted salesman Sonu Singh, the pompous Mr. Iyer and others. Because of his eccentric ways, Sonu becomes the prime suspect in the murder. What happens now?
The beauty of the Sunflower Housing Society lies in its eccentricities. With so many families living together, each with their own lives, there is bound to be friction somewhere. And that is what makes Vikas Bahl’s Sunflower so addictive to watch. Believe me when I say this, but the murder, and its investigation is actually the weakest part of the story. This eight-episode series works best when it focusses on the funny, quirky and often sordid lives of the residents. You know who has committed the murder right in the first episode, but it is fascinating to watch the marital dynamics of the Ahujas. There’s a police officer who thinks nothing of using a sealed-off flat for his sexual trysts, an elderly man who keeps cussing aloud like a sailor, a tone-deaf girl who wants to make it big as a singer, a middle-aged man who believes in moral policing of all kinds and so on.
Above all, there’s Sonu. A loner by nature, whose timidity gets in the way of his relationships, Sonu is multiple things at once—sweet, funny, creepy and abrasive. His antics power much of this eight-episode series, and you are simultaneously left stunned and unable to control your laughter at his stumbling ways. The characterization of Sunflower does all the heavy work—each character is crafted with care, and their personality quirks provide flavour and purpose to the plot. The series also exposes the hypocrisies of various housing societies in India’s metro cities, who claim to be tolerant and wanting harmony, but exclude prospective residents based on their own prejudices. The pacing slacks in the first four episodes, and there are a couple of tracks which seem forced, but overall, this is a delicious black comedy, ripe for a second season.
Sunil Grover leads the talented ensemble with his slack-jawed, pitch-perfect performance. He brings a timidity and occasional creepiness to his character of Sonu, who struggles with loneliness and just wants someone to talk to. Ranvir Shorey is sharp and occasionally comical as DG, while Girish Kulkarni steals the scene as the colourful Tambe, who is as proud of his womanizing ways as he is of his job. Mukul Chadda and Radha Bhatt are alternatively scary and funny as the Ahujas, who struggle with their own insecurities while trying to cover up their crime. Ashish Vidyarthi is terrific as Mr. Iyer, who is full of himself and cannot dream of anything else apart from being the president of the housing society. Dayana Erappa is all right as Justina, Sonu’s neighbour, while Simran Nerurakar’s naive Gurleen brings the house down in that hilarious singing audition scene. The rest of the cast are also decent.
Music & Other Departments
Sahej Bakshi and Sarvesh Shrivastava’s score is decent. Mandar Nagaonkar’s production design deserves kudos. Sudhakar Yakkanti Reddy’s camerawork is good.
A number of scenes crackle with energy, with the funny dialogues acting as a cherry on the top. A personal favourite is when Sonu sees a colleague try cocaine and he mutters, “Party se pehle manjan?” (“Brushing before the party?”). It’s hilarious.
The scenes where members of the housing society committee interview prospective owners/tenants get boring after a while, with Vidyarthi hogging most of the scenes. Also too many questions are left unanswered at the end, in the rush to provide cliffhangers.
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?