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‘Masterpeace’ series review: A loud, humorous antidote for regressive television serials

By Sampad Oct28,2023
Sharaf U Dheen and Nithya Menen in ‘Masterpeace’

Sharaf U Dheen and Nithya Menen in ‘Masterpeace’
| Photo Credit: DisneyPlusHotstar/YouTube

Malayalam television serials, many of which are notorious for stretching the narrative literally for years and thousands of episodes, have for long followed a fixed template. Set within families where the relatives scheme at each other, these soaps have invariably promoted a regressive value system, with young, independent people having their own opinions, mostly viewed with suspicion.

Masterpeace, the latest Malayalam OTT series, directed by Sreejith N. and written by Praveen S, turns this template on its head by placing a young couple at the centre of it and having their overbearing parents make an unwelcome intervention in their lives. At times, the loud manner in which the show spells out its progressive leanings makes one wonder whether they are trying to make amends for all the years of content with a pre-historic mindset in Malayalam television. But then, some things must be said out loud when people pretend not to have heard it.

Masterpeace (Malayalam)

Director: Shreejith N

Cast: Nithya Menen, Maala Parvathi, Sharaf U Dheen, Ashokan, Shanthi Krishna

Runtime: 5 episodes, 35 minutes per episode

Storyline: This is a tale of unconventional family, led by Binoy, a struggling businessman, and Ria, a homemaker trying to hold the family together

Riya (Nithya Menen) and Binoy (Sharaf U Dheen) are in a bittersweet relationship. After their parents get wind of their recent fight, the four elders visit their flat to resolve the issue, setting off a clash between different generations and lifestyles. The series borrows much of its production design ideas from Wes Anderson’s movie aesthetics, which have now become quite commonplace through mundane social media reels which ape the crazy, colourful look using available tools. The prim and proper ad-like interiors remind one of Bro Daddy, which director Sreejith N., had written. In what could be an attempt at self-referential humour, a character refers to the household as a Biennale exhibit.

While the lead couple is defined only by their modern views and perpetual fights, their parents are well-etched through better writing choices. Riya’s father, Kuriyachan (Ashokan), portrays the over-enthusiastic leader of a Church faction who attempts to impose his will on his family. The character’s background also opens up opportunities to poke fun at the perpetual disputes between the Orthodox and Jacobite Church factions. On the other side, it is Aniyamma (Maala Parvathi), Binoy’s over-melodramatic mother, who calls the shots and attempts to make Riya submit to her authority. Lisamma (Shanthi Krishna) and Chandichan (Renji Panicker), the silent sufferers on either side, also get meaty roles, with the former having the character trait of quoting song lyrics for every situation, a possible reaction to her suppressed desire to be a singer.

But, these conflicts, which in traditional television serials could lead to dramatic confrontations and tear-jerking episodes, get a loud, humourous treatment in Masterpeace. Although it takes some time for us to get into the groove, quite a few of the humorous situations work, while some end up as silly. The best jabs get aimed at the flat residents’ association office bearers through the character of Viji Sir (Srikant Murali), who plays a voyeuristic and moral policing association President.

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Maala Parvathi perhaps had the best understanding of the metre of humour and loudness needed for the series, while Ashokan is not far behind. But, the thin plot, based on a relatively minor fight, struggles to sustain due to the repetitive nature of some of the gags. The all-round loudness can get on your nerves at some points, but the makers manage to land in a safe zone eventually. They show the courage to bring in touchy issues but do not go the whole hog at times.

But, the series unmistakably stands with the youngsters’ viewpoints, gently nudging the elders to update themselves. Even while doing so, the elders are not looked at harshly, evident in how Aniyamma’s own sorrow at being ignored by her husband gets placed in the narrative. Those struggling to catch up to the changing times also need to have avenues to broaden their minds, the show seems to say.

Masterpeace works as a partial antidote for television serials, but it could have been much more.

Masterpeace is currently streaming on Hotstar

By Sampad

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