‘Thalaimai Seyalagalam’ series review: Vasanthabalan’s political drama undone by its predictability and uneven writing

Scene from ‘Thalaimai Seyalagalam’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Thalaimai Seyalagalam, the new political drama on ZEE5, is a testament to the creative contributions of accomplished directors like Vasanthabalan in the Tamil streaming industry. However, it’s critical to address the significant shortcomings of the series right off the bat.

Despite its potential and rich narrative fabric, Vasanthabalan’s show suffers from self-sabotage, with key twists sadly disclosed during its promotion, and a narrative that’s littered with too many giveaway clues. This shortcoming is a letdown, considering the otherwise engaging plot that could leave viewers longing for a second season in spite of its predictability.

The expansive tale unfolds across India, weaving together the lives of nearly a dozen central characters across four primary story arcs. Capturing the political landscape, the central plot revolves around Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister Arunachalam (Kishore), who finds himself in a legal quagmire stemming from a longstanding corruption case, orchestrated by business tycoon Krishnamoorthy (Shaji Chen).

To cement his reign and thwart his adversaries, Aruna relies on his inner circle — his daughter Amudhavalli (Remya Nambeesan), a minister vying for his post; Kottravai (Sriya Reddy), his trusty political advisor; his ambitious son-in-law Hariharan (Niroop Nandhakumar), who is both implicated in corruption and craving the CM role; and the influential party General Secretary Selvapuviyarasan (Santhana Bharathi).

Parallelly, the series introduces officer Nawas Khan (Adithya Menon) from the Central Bureau of Investigation, dispatched to delve into a series of brutal murders with links to the forests of Jharkhand and Orissa. In the southern territories, DCP Manikandan (Bharath) is on the trail of the murder of a fellow officer and finds himself circling around Durga (Kani Kusruti), a character with a dark past potentially intertwined with Kottravai’s story.

The attempt to navigate such a multi-layered storyline in eight episodes of half an hour each is audacious. There’s an unmistakable intensity — from graphically brutal scenes to subtle references to heinous crimes, peppered with stretches of calm that contribute to the show’s unique ambiance.

Vasanthabalan’s maiden venture into series storytelling showcases his adaptability to the format. With naturally evolving cliffhangers, fitting background scores, and the absence of unnecessary cinematic distractions, Thalaimai Seyalagam stands out as a political drama that eschews typical rally scenes, crowd dynamics, clashes, or overdramatized TV debates to its advantage. Creative touches, like the animated sequences for backstory exposition, are commendable, though such techniques could have been used more extensively to alleviate some of the predictability surrounding a key mysterious character.

Regrettably, these strengths cannot fully redeem the often scattered nature of the narrative. The predictability of the plot and constraints in episode length do no favors. The political machinations lack the expected creativity, presenting rather superficial power struggles. The series gradually loses the emotional grip it initially held over its audience as powerful leaders engage in strategizing over phone calls and sometimes executing their deceptive plans in person.

A still from ‘Thalaimai Seyalagalam’

A moment captured from ‘Thalaimai Seyalagalam’
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Dedicating additional narrative space could have elevated the series, ideally creating equilibrium amongst its extensive cast and individual story threads. The creators’ efforts to infuse distinct qualities into each character are discernible, as seen with Amudhavalli who seeks comfort in shadowy environments due to a feeling of vulnerability, while Hariharan’s choices are swayed by his belief in the divinatory power of tasseography.

Despite this, Bharath’s character Manikandan comes across as somewhat uninspired – a quintessential film detective with a tendency towards rule-bending for good reasons. His dynamic with Sundari (portrayed by Dharsha Gupta), who is both his love interest and a colleague on the police force, fails to progress meaningfully. Similarly, Arunachalam’s portrayal as a reserved three-time Chief Minister feels incomplete, as we’re largely left in the dark about his internal struggles amidst the turmoil. Kani Kusruti’s role, while substantial, lacks a defining moment, and Adithya Menon’s Nawas Khan’s narrative arc concludes with an underwhelming resolution.

Thalaimai Seyalagam proliferates a fresh experience for viewers but could have reached greater heights with a more well-adjusted script, restrained promotion rhetoric, and a sprinkle of misleading clues to enrich the intrigue. The potential for a more impactful delivery was certainly present.

Thalaimai Seyalagam is currently available for streaming on ZEE5.

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