Tamannaah, Pasupathy anchor a wavering thriller- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

It is unusual to see a female lead in Tamil cinema play an ethical hacker. It is rarer to see a heroine go against the cops—here, to prove the innocence of her father who gets caught in a crime quagmire. It is even rarer that this lead character is not forced through the slightest semblance of a romantic track. For all these reasons, and a few more, November Story is surely a positive development in the Tamil OTT space.

Every episode begins with a black-and-white/sepia-tinted flashback before travelling forward in time where we meet Anuradha Ganesan (Tamannaah), her Alzheimer’s-affected crime-novelist father, Ganesan (GM Kumar), and a bunch of cops. The writers have woven in crime and cops seamlessly into the proceedings that it seems quite organic when Anuradha takes on the system to prove her father’s innocence in a murder case.

However, Ganesan’s fan/police officer, Sudalai (Aruldoss), seems to create more impact than the protagonist, and this is a recurring problem in November Story that pegs itself as Anuradha and Ganesan’s big struggle. There is little we see about their actual struggle. Yes, Anuradha’s hacking skills come in handy, but it doesn’t really help her father’s case.

The true struggle they have to get past is Ganesan’s Alzheimer’s affliction that constantly threatens to break Anuradha’s composure. However, with the introduction of Dr Yesu (Pasupathy), the series gradually becomes more about him, and at one point, I entirely forgot what Anuradha was really fighting for. Even the makers conveniently shift the focus on Yesu because there is only so much intrigue that comes with hacking, Alzheimer’s or even the ‘crime novelist getting caught in a crime’ scenario.

November Story entirely hinges on you turning a blind eye towards such conveniences. Ganesan lands up in his ancestral house on the day a murder happens. Someone is hacking into the police database, and guess who should be working with the cops to digitise said FIRs? Why, it’s Anuradha and Malar (Vivek Prasanna), of course.

Meanwhile, the contents of the FIR turn out to be answers for questions Anuradha didn’t even know she had. After a point, these conveniences feel like a smokescreen for a lack of efficient plot writing. In addition to these wayward plot points is also the story of three boys, accused of rape and murder, who are on the run. There is also a girl (Namitha Krishnamoorthy) who everyone says, has cerebral palsy, and there’s her caretaker as well. What is Anuradha’s connection with everything that is unravelling around her? Where does Dr Yesu fit into all this? How do the cops get to the bottom of everything? A lot of these questions do get answered, but not in an entirely convincing way, and definitely not in an economical way across the series’ seven episodes that run for four hours.

However, November Story does score high on the engagement factor. Barring the final pay-off that is not exactly an organic culmination, the series largely works. We aren’t left too long with the stories of Yesu and Anuradha that we begin poking holes into their narratives. There is a lot of activity, even if they don’t necessarily add up. The forced humour, in particular, fails to add any flavour. Scenes involving Aruldoss and other cops or some of Vivek Prasanna’s sequences may be attempts at comedy, but the tonal shifts are jarring. These misgivings notwithstanding, November Story is still largely all right, especially in comparison with some notorious competition in the Tamil OTT space.

Right from Vidhu Ayyanna’s cinematography to Saran Raghavan’s background score, there is enough quality to add to all the mystery. November Story also benefits from its casting. Pasupathy is an actor who knows when to play it straight and when to chew on the scenery, and there is a little bit of both in his role as Dr Yesu. The series, in fact, feels like his vehicle, despite an impressive Tamannaah trying her best to hold her own opposite seasoned actors like him and GM Kumar. Unlike in 11th Hour, her debut in the digital space, this series offers more to Tamannaah, and she does a decent job of pulling off the role of a next-door-girl.

The narrative, however, has her go missing from time to time without any real consequences.   While previous entrants to the Tamil OTT series space have aimed at shoehorning a cliffhanger at the end just to keep their options open for another season, November Story encourages no such compulsions, leading to a comforting sense of completion. The series manages to entertain enough to ensure the gates of the Tamil OTT space are still kept open, but not enough to get your pulse racing in excitement at what’s to come.

Director: Indhra Subramanian

Cast: Tamannaah, Pasupathy, Vivek Prasanna, GM Kumar

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

Rating: 3/5

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