Live Telecast review: Kajal Aggarwal’s horror series is dead on arrival

Live Telecast review: Venkat Prabhu is out of his depth as he seems to have exhausted his creative well in putting together a web show that tries to marry hunger for TRPs with the horror genre.

Live Telecast cast: Kajal Aggarwal, Vaibhav Reddy, Kayal Anandhi, Priyanka, Selva, Daniel Annie Pope, Subbu Panchu Arunachalam
Live Telecast director: Venkat Prabhu

In seven episodes, running over 3.5 hours, one can’t find a single moment in Live Telecast that offers some emotional value. “What is happening?” asks characters that get locked inside a haunted house. And that’s the only time a viewer could empathize with the characters. Not just the actors and the audience, even director Venkat Prabhu seems to have had no clue about what was happening in his maiden web series.

Live Telecast revolves around a TRP-hungry television crew, led by Jenifer Matthew (Kajal Aggarwal). She runs a ‘reality show’ called Dark Tales. The format of the show parodies controversial Tamil talk show Solvathellam Unmai, where common people discuss their intimate family matters. But, Dark Tales invites people to share their brush with paranormal activities. Before the victims are invited to the stage amid a lot of cheering and applause, the audience is treated to a clumsy re-enactment of the ordeal of the survivors. The show’s host Aravind (Daniel Annie Pope) has no empathy for his guests who have opened up about their worst experiences. He approaches the show with a gleam of sunshine and joy, contradicting the very dark theme of the show.

Jenifer’s lack of moral responsibility to promote scientific temperament among her audience is her biggest gift. She feels no guilt in reinforcing people’s superstitious beliefs to drive up the rating of her show. And she succeeds, Dark Tales tops the TRP chart. But, the show’s standing is threatened by a newly launched melodramatic soap opera, which marks the debut of a famous big screen actress. “Is she so jobless, that she started acting in television?,” mocks Jenifer. And when the soap opera gets a better rating than the so-called reality show, Jenifer’s lack of responsibility hits a new low. She gets her cast members to re-enact a scene, where a woman is raped by an invisible force (probably lifted from Hindi movie Hawa). All hell breaks loose, as the channel and advertisers pull the plug on her show. “Our people have no taste to appreciate a show of international standard,” rues Jenifer. Not for nothing they say ignorance is bliss. As she marinates in the illusion of her ingenuity and stupidity of people, she gets another golden idea. She decides to capture a ghost on tape and live broadcast it on her channel. And as usual, she goes ahead with the plan without thinking it through and puts many innocent lives in danger.

Venkat Prabhu is out of his depth as he seems to have exhausted his creative well in putting together a horror show. The director’s biggest drawback is he wanted to do an extended version of Kanchana, only broken into seven episodes. Instead, he should have aimed higher. His writing lacks discipline that’s needed to develop dramatic tension in a series. And he also does a sloppy job when it comes to adding depth to his characters. The characters are as shallow as Venkat’s idea for the web series.

It is agonizing to see the director’s lack of awareness about changing times. Venkat’s ideas are obsolete. So much so that it feels like a series made for the taste and beliefs of a bygone era. Take, for example, how he introduces the cop character AC Guru, played by Selva. The scene intends to show that Guru is a dynamic cop. So, Venkat resorts to the oldest trick in the book. He makes Guru murder three men in cold-blood for allegedly raping a teenage girl. It seems rather convenient to evoke a quick emotional response from the audience and make the cop look powerful and desirable. But, in reality, it shows the cop has no patience to investigate, gather evidence and get a conviction. In other words, he doesn’t intend to lawfully discharge his sworn duty. In a way, the encounter was to cover-up the fact that he is a failed cop. In the light of recent events, glorifying police brutality like that looks straight-up offensive and signifies lack of knowledge.

And the performances are not any better. It only makes it more difficult for us to buy what Venkat Prabhu and Co. are selling.

Live Telecast is streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.

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