'Sunflower' Sunil Grover anchors a show that’s wildly erratic, engaging in flashes

'Sunflower' gives the talented stand-up comic Sunil Grover a rare chance to captain the ship. Alas, a sinking one! Sunflower comes to us as a “murder mystery" but there is no mystery!

Sunil Grover (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Sunil Grover (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
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Subhash K Jha

Sunflower gives the talented stand-up comic Sunil Grover a rare chance to captain the ship. Alas, a sinking one! Sunflower comes to us as a “murder mystery”. But there is no mystery about this whodunit! In the opening sequence of the first episode which begins with a stylish shot of nariyalpani-wallah cycling purposefully to an apartment complex called Sunflower with a delivery order. Within the next few minutes, a resident named Raj Kapoor is murdered. The culprit’s identity is revealed. No, it’s not Dilip Kumar.

So what happens in the next 8 episodes? I will let you know as soon as I figure it out. There are cops all over the building looking for the culprit (who hides behind his wife’s pallu and cowers and glowers, depending on the hour of the day). The ever-dependable Ranveer Shorey and Girish Kulkarni are the cops on duty. Ranveer never smiles. If the camera caught him doing so even once in the 8 episodes, I missed it. Not much is known about Shorey’s character except in one episode where we see his wife returning home late after a film with friends.

Interesting characters show up and get lost in the jostling melee that the plot creates without being able to make an impression in the plot’s perpetual quest for interesting asides.

Girish Kulkarni is the lech-cop. He has girlfriends all over the city and it’s delightful the way this chameleon can switch from benign to slime ball from one yarn to the next. One of my favourite sequences in this series is the one where a 17-year old boy lectures Kulkarni on condoms in a drugstore. I don’t know who that boy is. But he steals the show from Kulkarni, and that’s saying a lot.

There are spurts of wickedly funny writing all across the 8 episodes. Ashish Vidyarthi as the building society’s president interviewing prospective tenants is simply brilliant in his ill-concealed bigotry. But this track, given bewilderingly large space in the plot, goes on and on.

Wildly erratic, sometimes brilliant sometimes idiotic, the plot of Sunflower is never able to explain itself completely to the viewers.

Anchoring the show, and holding together its sprawling loose ends is Sunil Grover, in what is arguably his best performance to date. Playing Sonu Singh, a sales executive in a cosmetic company, he is a hopeless loser but never one to give up. This is what makes Sonu so interesting. Everyone except Sonu himself, can see he is a complete wash-out with no prospects of a bright future.

In one sequence he is in the lift with his neighbour who promptly invites the other girl in the lift for a party and ignores him. But the smile never leaves Sonu’s face, no matter how blatant the insult, how devastating the putdown. I wanted to know more about this thick-skinned optimist’s damaged past. The script sadly does precious little to elaborate on our protagonist’s back-story. It is keener to juice the comic underbelly of Sonu’s loneliness than to show him as a fleamarket version of Joaquin Phoenix in Joker. So lonely he can at any moment turn the gun on himself or on civilization.

Grover’s Sonu Singh tethers brilliantly on the edge of a nervous breakdown, rescued from total collapse by his astonishing reserves of optimism. Sonu’s attempt to befriend an over-friendly office colleague Aanchal (Saloni Singh, fabulous) which starts with a cake and ends predictably with an ache, could have been the theme of the whole series.

Towards the end Sonu rescues an old man(Sameer Kakkad, still sozzled since Nukkad) from what looks like either severe acidity or a heart attack. Sonu is then kidnapped by two Sardarji’s and taken away to Chandigarh.

Sunflower wants to go into too many places too many times. The end-result is a fidgety unmoored series with a string of loose ends and a whodunit with zero suspense. Sunil Grover’s portrait of urban loneliness, comic on top so frightening underneath, will draw you into this series. Go at your own risk.

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