Director: Venkat Prabhu
Cast: Kajal Aggarwal, Vaibhav Reddy, Kayal Anandhi, Priyanka, Subbu Panchu, Arunachalam
The Coronavirus pandemic led to a spurt in web content. What in the initial days of Covid 19 began as a more-or-less sensible form of sit-at-home entertainment now appears to have slipped into a race for one-upmanship. And much like the umpteen number of streaming platforms that indulge in cut-throat competition with one another for higher TRP, callously ignoring novelty and substance, Tamil director Venkat Prabhu's first foray into a web series with Live Telecast – just out on Disney+Hotstar – hits precisely on this in a seven-episode story of how a channel in its bid to out-beat others, stoops to the most unethical of means.
Titled Dark Tales, the TV show revolves around a team, led by Jenifer Matthew (Kajal Aggarwal), which invites men and women who have experienced paranormal events. But Matthew invariably twists the climax in every tale to make it scarier and tragic! In a world that is fighting irrationality, blind belief and superstition, she promotes these very concepts in her programme and makes them appear real.
So, when a couple drives down to a lonely wooded area at night to snatch a few moments of intimacy, the man is mysteriously dragged away. The woman returns home in a state of panic. This Dark Tale ends there, but in reality, the man comes back after a while – a fact that Matthew keeps hidden from her viewers – though much to the chagrin of her colleagues.
However, when in another episode she gets her cast to enact a scene of a woman being raped by a ghost, there is a huge hue and cry. The promoters of the programme pull the plug leaving Matthew bitterly lamenting that Indian audiences have “no taste to enjoy something which is of international quality”.
And in vengeful anger, she thinks up of another plot, this time in a supposedly haunted house in Yelagiri (a hill resort in Tamil Nadu), putting the lives of the family which resides there and of those in her team in peril.
Live Telecast, contrary to Matthew's contention, is miles and miles away from “international quality”. Recent web series like The Undoing and Lupin among several others are those which make the grade. Not Live Telecast.
Prabhu's work was conceived as a feature film a decade ago, but he seems to have turned it into a web series. The time lag shows, and Live Telecast is so jaded and dated that it is a pain to sit through the episodes. The writing is careless, the characters have not been etched out, and Aggarwal is awfully disappointing, walking in and out of her scenes in tearing hurry.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is a movie critic and author of a biography of Adoor Gopalakrishnan)