I found America Mappillai, ZEE5’s original Tamil web series produced by Trendloud, to be an interesting bag of moments. The story revolves around an America-return guy Ganesh (Arjun Chidambaram) who lies about his sexuality to avoid the arranged marriage scene his father is trying to get him into. While the story and its characters are refreshingly fresh, what America Mappillai lacks is depth. More effort has been put in writing beautiful moments than in writing a fleshed-out story. It ends up being counterproductive – the overreach in these moments make it feel a tad stagey rather than organic. We get that the two men make a good pair.
But there are several things to like about America Mappillai as well – its characters for one. We have a best friend who acts in serials, a refreshingly progressive aunt, a sister with a world of her own and of course, the father who lets go of the world he understands for his son. I would have loved to know more about Leela Samson and the dynamics of her relationship with her brother. We see that her word prevails over Rangarajan’s conflict with tradition, but how did she become who she is? Juxtaposing the older siblings with the younger pair, Ganesh and Sunanda who struggle to communicate give a nice contrast.
Each episode in America Mappillai is named after a colour — in an ode to its queer story. With each colour, a few qualities are also listed. For example, the final episode is titled red, which comes with a caption — Awakening, time and life. The characters which face or experience these emotions seem to be wearing a shade of red. The pattern is seen in almost all episodes and I loved the idea. America Mappillai looks good and its minimal music (fair usage of Solo’s soundtrack) is apt. Several moments don’t have sound and the silence is brilliant.
However, I wish the same effort was put in rationalising Ganesh’s struggle with his identity. Apart from his inclination to button up completely, there isn’t much to suggest his actual confusion with his sexuality. Instead of a convenient explanation given by another character (Sruthi Hariharan), it would have been plausible if the turmoil was internal. But I have to say the chemistry between Ganesh and Karthik (Gokul Anand) was good. Maybe it was the lack of time that didn’t provide the space to establish their relationship. Both Gokul and Arjun come up with neat performances.
Considering that each episode of America Mapillai is roughly ten minutes, it is quite an easy watch. And the hour in total that you spend will leave you with more smiles than frowns. In fact, it would be great if they can come up with a series that shows the problems a south-Indian homosexual couple face.
This was first originally published on https://indianexpress.com/. You can find it here.
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