Serial Chiller: Zee5's Fingertip is a highly relatable, acutely watchable series about modern Tamil lives

Ranjani Krishnakumar

Sep 03, 2019 10:09:18 IST

Serial Chiller is Ranjani Krishnakumar’s monthly column about all things Tamil television. Read more from the series here.

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Greed. Rage. Betrayal. Lust. Vengeance.

Fingertip, a Zee5 Original Tamil web series, captures our technology-hooked modern lives through the prism of these five deadly sins.

When I heard that there is a Tamil web series about the “negative impacts of social media”, you’d understand that I was naturally sceptical. I had recently watched the abomination called Comali, which presents a somewhat outdated and unempathetic view of modern life. Add to it the generally overwhelming nostalgia that prevails among Zee5 web series makers — of Auto Shankar, Thiravam, Postman and the like — and I couldn’t accept Fingertip with anything but caution.

 Serial Chiller: Zee5s Fingertip is a highly relatable, acutely watchable series about modern Tamil lives

Fingertip doesn’t treat social media as a drug, or some sort of overarching digital evil

A few minutes into the first episode though, the series put me at ease. Written jointly by Neelan K. Sekar and S Shivakar, and directed by the latter, Fingertip builds the world and presents its characters with empathy and understanding. From the story of Rekha, an aspiring internet influencer who loses a bit of herself to gain celebrity; to Sanjay, a real-life celebrity whose undoing occurs on social media — Fingertip is a slice of the world we populate. Each episode is the story of an every-person, whose life is thrown into disarray through social media, by other every-persons. The show uses the term ‘social media’ somewhat loosely though, throwing platforms like Tinder, WhatsApp etc into the mix.

Fingertip doesn’t treat social media as a drug, or some sort of overarching digital evil. It treats it with a little more nuance, as a potent tool that has the ability to bring out the worst — sometimes the best — in each of us.

It is this clarity of thought that makes Fingertip engaging. For instance, the second episode, which appears to be about fake news on the surface, is, in fact, a study of individualism and collectivism in the times of social media. Krishnamoorthy, the protagonist of this episode finds his life’s biggest joys and troubles through the same medium.

Episodes three and four appear to be about romantic relationships, but are in fact about men using social media to manipulate and abuse women. Both episodes take unexpected turns; the fourth — titled ‘Lust’ — is even somewhat cathartic, owing in no small part to Gayathrie’s arresting performance.

But she isn’t the only one. The casting and performance across episodes are spot on — Madhusudhan Rao as Krishnamoorthy, Sanjana Sarathy as Vidhya, Akshara Haasan as Priya, Ashwin Kakumanu as Sanjay, Jeeva Ravi as his assistant Ramalingam — each uncannily embodies the exaggerated restlessness and tensions of living on social media.

The scene where Sanjay gets his make-up done, while scrolling through his social media timeline, even as Ramalingam continues to reprimand him for his online activities, is like most of our lives today — multi-tasking in such a way that we treat none of those tasks as important. Bhuvan Srinivasan’s editing perfectly matches the rhythm of the series, in this scene, and elsewhere.

The same episode also has some of the show’s worst faux pas. There is an awkward shot of Sanjay getting off his caravan to shoot his scene, only to face a group of fans screaming, waving and jumping around set to peppy background music. Shots like these, perhaps intended to tell us that Sanjay is a popular hero with a big fan base, end up appearing almost comical in execution. There is also a scene where the deputy commissioner, sounding rather naïve, asks Sanjay, “Social media, email ellam cloud-la connect panni irukkingala (Have you connected your social media and email to the cloud)?”

Evidently, the strength of Fingertip is not in the technology, but in the people. It focuses unwaveringly on telling a story, and not shouting a message; the show doesn’t judge. In fact, it gives the audience the time and space to understand the lives of its characters.

There is a scene in the first episode titled ‘Greed’, where Rekha, an aspiring social media celebrity checks into a hotel in a situation of extreme desperation. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Rekha is faced with a difficult decision — going back to her unsupportive and disrespectful husband or making compromises to pursue her dreams. Surprisingly, even delightfully, the show doesn’t present the decision as a moral one, merely a personal one.

That doesn’t mean it takes it lightly. The episode’s last few minutes linger on this decision and its aftermath. It doesn’t call her names or decry the erosion of Tamil culture. But it tells us that this is the new culture and leaves us to decide for ourselves what we make of it. In the world of Fingertip, you are both the Instagrammer who constantly refreshes her feed in anticipation of new likes — and the sly tweeter taking malicious pleasure in bringing the next person down.

Watching the series for me was somewhat akin to scrolling through my Twitter feed on the day of publishing an essay — anxiety-ridden, heart racing, yet physically incapable of tearing myself away from it. In that, the show captures much of our social media existence rather accurately.

However, Fingertip is certainly no Black Mirror. It hardly even has the cinematic panache to be a good-enough homage. But in its own Tamil-splained way, Fingertip is a reflection of our lives today, warts and all — each episode is the story of someone we know, someone we’ve heard about, even someone we have been or we are. It is this relatability that makes the show acutely watchable, in spite of its flaws.

Ranjani Krishnakumar is a writer, obsessor and a nascent Chennai-vasi. You can reach her at @_tharkuri

Updated Date: Sep 05, 2019 10:47:05 IST