Whoever named Srimathi was surely misled. Thirty years old and disinterested in marriage, Srimathi’s name is a challenge for officials at the government offices she haunts in order to claim her inheritance.
This Ms who is not a Mrs has spent the past several years fighting her uncle in court. There’s a way out for the feisty woman. It’s unorthodox but puts her hotel management degree to use.
The Godavari river runs by Srimathi’s Ramarajulanka village. The place is verdant and picturesque but lacks a decent bar, the kind where you can wash down finger food with cocktails. Srimathi soon finds out that the task of setting up Taj Mahal Bar is monumental, especially when you are a single woman.
The Telugu-language Kumari Srimathi, based on a story by Balabhadrapatruni Ramani and Mallik Ram, is heart-warming stuff with ample side servings of snark and zaniness. The show has a bunch of superbly written characters, a feel-good arc that feels earned, as well as enough plot turns to maintain interest over seven episodes.
Written by Uday Aghamarshan, Jayanth Tadinada and Kaushik Subrahmanya and created by Srinivas Avasarala, the series is out on Prime Video. Gomtesh Upadhye smoothly directs a memorable ensemble cast, led by the redoubtable Nithya Menen in crackling form as the complicated, conflicted and determined heroine.
Flashbacks reveal the domestic bliss that prevailed over Srimathi’s clan before trouble struck. Her father Visweswara (VK Naresh) abandons her mother Devika (Gautami), her sister Kalyani (Praneeta Patnaik) and her grandmother Seshamma (Rameshwari).
Devika’s family shares their rental home with another family whose son Sriram (Nirupam Paritala) is silently pining for Srimathi.
Srimathi has no shortage of suitors – there’s her childhood friend Abhinav (Thiruveer) and her despised classmate Dorababu (Gavireddy Srinivas). But her preoccupation with defeating her uncle Keshava (Prem Sagar) leaves her time for little else.
Srinivas Avasarala’s screenplay braids together criss-crossing narrative strands, never forgetting to keep the chuckles coming. Keshava, superbly played by Prem Sagar, has a truckload of rib-tickling moments, some of them revolving around his inept sons. The ample references to Telugu movies leads to a fun cameo by a leading Telugu actor.
While the razor-sharp dialogue skewers the self-serving humans, there is also scope for redemption. Keshava’s good-humoured villainy yields the most satisfying arc, with room for Phani-Mani (played by Ram and Laxman) to shine too.
Surrounded by full-bodied characters, each of whom has an important role to play in her journey, Srimathi sheds her initial shakiness, but mercifully not her tamarind-tart temperament. For a change, here is a heroine who has a bark that is sometimes as bad as her bite but doesn’t suffer for it. Nithya Menen beautifully plays a woman who is defined not by her relationships but by her convictions.
Gauthami, as Devika, and Rameshwari, as Srimathi’s grandmother, are memorable too, even though we barely learn about their own struggles. Devika’s hardscrabble back story doesn’t get the exposition it deserved.
We needed to know more of Devika’s intervening years to better understand a character who has influenced Srimathi more than the young woman would like to admit. The series ends on the promise of a second season, which might better explain how Srimathi is actually following in her mother’s footsteps.