Sutliyan  ‘Zee5’ Review: This Mellow Tale of Familial Bond is Flawed but Watchable
Sutliyan (2022) Zee5 Review: In a turn for the better, these days, we are seeing a lot of Indian family dramas, whether it is a film or web series, pick realism instead of the overblown and putrid fantasy that they used in the soap dramas that still run in the traditional TV primetime slots. Instead of garish costumes, lavish set designs, these newer family dramas focus more on the reality of an Indian household. We have seen Mangesh Joshi’s Marathi film, “Karkhanisanchi Waari”, deftly portray the individualism under the umbrella of an Indian joint family household. Telegu film “Family Drama”, by Meher Tej, on the other hand, was a complete subversion of the typical Indian family dramas. Although not constricted by the boundaries of a family drama, Achal Mishra’s phenomenally meditative “Gamak Ghar” has the essence of an Indian family as its driving force.
Zee5’s latest offering, “Sutliyan…Rishton Ki Ek Anokhi Bunai”, directed by Small Town Films, channels the same realism of modern stories set on a common Indian household. Despite the subheading “Rishton Ki Ek Anokhi Bunai”, which could be translated as “A unique tale of relationships”, the tale portrayed in the eight-episode web series shares commonality with almost every family of India. The familial threads that bind its members together is the essence of “Sutliyan”, and the series is mostly successful on striking the right chords, even if a little clumsily.
The story starts with three siblings, two brothers, and one sister, returning to their familial house in Bhopal, where their mother resides, for the Diwali holidays. It has been a year since their father passed away. None of the children could be present for their father’s funeral due to COVID restrictions. COVID has played the role of the major rabble-rouser for the predicaments, and thus conflicts, of the family. Expectedly. Similarly expectedly, a family reunion always becomes the major brewing pot of conflicts. However, “Sutliyan” does not go full “August: Osage County”.
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“Sutliyan’s” conflicts are much more restrained. They flow like an undercurrent, not crashes like a tidal wave. Writers, Sudeep Nigam and Abhishek Chatterjee chose wisely in that regard. The story tries not to rely on the conflicts so much, and majorly focuses on the familial bond and the slightly reluctant love shared between the family members. There are certain individual struggles set for each of the characters, nothing absolutely out of the ordinary. It tries to create moments rather than plot twists in overcoming the conflicts. However it does reach for one at the climax, but that is acceptable.
One of the criticisms, that would be especially noticeable in the first couple of episodes, is the struggle to create moments. Director group Small Town Films often abruptly cut many shots and scenes. For a moment to fully materialize, it needs time. The camera needs to linger a bit more in most of those shots. One example would be when a montage of Bhopal is presented in one of the early episodes. There are shots of food stalls, roads, monuments, and people. However, most of the shots are quickly cut, like within one or two seconds. In the later part of the episodes, it becomes better.
Similar abruptness can be seen in some of the episodes’ endings. All eight episodes are of 20-24 minutes in duration each. Although each episode has its own element to focus on, still it seems to be a real struggle to divide the entire story into those eight episodes. There are certain jarring and unnatural ends of episodes, where the audience would certainly notice the lack of seamless transition between each episode. It would make one wonder whether the story was at first made for a film and not a series.
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The strength of the series lies in the acting performances of its deft cast. Ayesha Raza, who plays Supriya, the matriarch of the family, leads the cast diligently. Often playing characters of big-city sophistication, her demure diction of the small town housewife trying to establish her own business (primarily becoming independent) after her husband’s death is laudable. Shiv Panditt epitomizes the struggle of a middle-class thirty-something man as the eldest brother. Plabita Borthakur makes Ramni, the girl’s middle child, likable; and Vivaan Shah is quite charming as the youngest child, Raman, who is still growing into his life.
Despite all its flaws, “Sutliyan” is an immensely watchable web series, especially if you are familiar with the Indian familial intricacies.
Sutliyan (Season 1) is now streaming on Zee5
Sutliyan (Season 1) Links – IMDb
Sutliyan (Season 1) Cast – Pooja Kandare, Shiv Panditt, Plabita Borthakur, Vivaan Shah, Ayesha Raza