Tamilrockerz boldly dives into its subject matter despite knowing that … it could be pirated.

The title of the SonyLIV show is a reference to Tamil Rockers, the Torrent site notorious for leaking brand-new films, shows and music. This scourge of the entertainment industry allows movie lovers to download the latest releases for practically next to nothing, rather than buying a theatre ticket or a streaming subscription.

Tamilrockerz has been written by Manoj Kumar Kalaivanan and Rajesh Manjunath and directed by Arivazhagan (Eeram, Kutram 23). The Tamil-language series goes into some detail about the roots of piracy as well as the nature of film production itself. The themes include the costs of both making a movie and watching it, the creative pressures faced by directors, the duplicitousness of producers, and the human cost of copyright theft.

Fandom, expressed by hysterics at first-day shows and diehard round-the-clock loyalty towards a particular actor, unwittingly plays its own part in piracy. If Torrent sites are even halfway successful, blame it on the impatience of cinemaniacs, the show suggests.

Arun Vijay makes his streaming debut as Rudra, a police officer with a strong vigilante streak. In the time-honoured tradition of the gruff movie cop, Rudra ignores due process when interrogating suspects, has a dead wife and a drinking problem.

But after he is tasked with preventing a leak of “Action Star” Adithya’s latest movie Garuda, Rudra behaves himself. Produced by Mathi (Azhagam Perumal), Garuda has a few hundred crores riding on it. Combining legwork and cyber-forensics, Rudra begins to create a profile of the shadowy Tamilrockerz kingpin Daya (X). Rudra’s aides include Sandhya (Vani Bhojan) and Bhanu (the always reliable Vinodhini Vaidyanathan)

Although the series sometimes plays out like Piracy 101, these sections are always far more illuminating than the increasingly tedious hunt for Rudra and his posse. We learn about the many ways in which films get pirated before they can reach their intended audiences. The antecedents of digital piracy are traced back to Burma Bazaar, the market in Chennai where rip-offs of nearly every movie on the planet can be bought as easily as onions.

From a fan who declares that Tamil cinema died with MG Ramachandran in 1987 to a Burma Bazar veteran who earnestly declares that he is helping households save precious money, the show is at its strongest when exploring the Tamil film-loving public’s relationship with cinema. The busy narrative, which is overloaded with far too many sub-plots, mercifully calms down for an affecting sequence in which MS Bhaskar’s character tells us what made him movie-mad in the first place.

Despite being produced by the storied film production banner AVM Studios, Tamilrockerz makes room for a thoughtful critique of poor industry practices. Mathi, although at the receiving end of piracy, is also a wily character who will stoop to conquer the box office. Skilfully played by director Azgaham Perumal, Mathi is one of the show’s most well-rounded and memorable characters.

Temptation – for money or revenge – encourage seemingly honest characters to participate in destroying a film’s box office. Although this device is a scripting contrivance to give nearly every character surrounding Mathi a stake in the bigger game, it does become clear that filmmaking is both profession and passion.

What price, love? Tamilrockerz deftly answers the question before setting itself up for a needless second season. A show about the heavy toll of piracy actually works better as an examination of the vagaries of showbiz.

Tamilrockerz (2022).