Viu's latest Telugu series The Grill fits the bill for the digital medium fairly well, particularly with its familiar college-comedy trope, a crisp narrative mirroring relevant issues pertaining to Gen Z, packaged across ten episodes that add up to a three-and-a-half hour duration. There's nothing groundbreaking or earthshattering about it; it's just the kind of digital content that could liven up a dull, lazy evening with its peppy humour dosed with college nostalgia.
Sharan Koppisetty, who'd directed the reasonably impressive college-musical Kirrak Party in the past, returns to a familiar territory with 'The Grill' and he certainly understands the quirks and issues that complete the lives of hostelites and engineering students. Though extremely sluggish to take off, the narrative attains some purpose in the latter half of the series. The series at any point doesn't try very hard to tug at your heartstrings; it's only meant to be a watchable 'kill-your-time' entertainer and it fulfills its intentions with clarity. Santosh Sobhan, who found it tough to carry a film on his own shoulders with Paperboy, appears more relaxed as he plays the lead role in his digital debut with reasonable confidence and ease. The audience views the story through his happy go lucky character, named Arjun, a first-year engineering student, and a wannabe-chef, in a college at Hyderabad. He encounters an array of interesting characters who're his roommates, from a food-enthusiast to a fitness freak to a guy who prefers to abide by the rule book and a livewire who's extremely proud about his Rayalaseema roots. The series is filled with instances where Arjun's at a war of words with his seniors besides his failed attempts to win the trust of his former-lover Aaradhya. How do Arjun and his roommates invite trouble into their lives time and again, get rusticated from college and find a purpose to their student life? The Grill is an apt title that conveys the barrier between the seniors and juniors in college while also throwing light on Arjun's culinary abilities. With a cast that definitely knows a thing or two about comic timing, the performances are generally decent. Viva Harsha sleepwalks through his role and tickles your funny bones with his straight-faced poker-humour. Mirchi Kiran, Ashrita Vemuganti, Jeedigunta Sridhar lend adequate weight to their supporting acts in minimal screentime. The character of a youngster dealing with a receding hairline, the idea of an innerwear causing confrontation between the students ensures laughs aplenty.
The series isn't without its uncomfortable moments. It's time that writers come out of the obligation to include a drunken-scene where men discuss girls and indulge in some cheap, misogynistic talk. The supposed-humour surrounding homosexuality isn't executed in good taste either. At several junctures, The Grill finds itself wanting in terms of depth. The love story between Arjun and his possessive girlfriend Aaradhya, followed by the cumbersome love-triangle episodes are ridden with a lot of time-tested cliches, where the writing seems very lazy and basic. You don't see any love in the eyes of the protagonists and the proceedings work like a mechanical acting drill, executed to perfection.
The journey of five suspended students towards the establishment of a food truck is too easy on the eye and convenient, where the director doesn't provide sufficient nuance to the theme or showcase their struggle. The friends lend money, buy a vehicle, make food and win customers- all looking like a fairy tale sans any modern-day relevance. The thread about Arjun being raised by a single parent, where the mother chooses work over parenthood, comes a little too late in the series. Despite all its issues, things fall in place for The Grill because the intentions are more sincere than the execution. With some precision and sharpness in its storytelling, this could have been memorable and not only passable (as of now).