Thalaimai Seyalagam brings to the Tamil streaming space the political conspiracy thriller adored by Hindi fiction creators. The ZEE5 series connects a chief minister accused of corruption, bloodthirsty Maoists and dogged police investigators.

Fifteen years in the past, a woman who was brutally flogged revives herself to slay her tormentors. More miracles are afoot over eight episodes that appear to have come to writer-director G Vasantha Balan during a fever dream.

In the present, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Arunachalam (Kishore) is being prosecuted for graft. Rather than the grasping members of his family, which include his daughter Amuthavalli (Ramya Nambessan), Arunachalam trusts the wise counsel of the journalist Kotravai (Sriya Reddy).

This member of the Fourth Estate spends most of her time in the Second Estate, attending Cabinet meetings and working behind the scenes to rescue Arunachalam. In a welcome change of events, the relationship between Kotravai and Arunachalam is based on a shared understanding of governance, rather than personal feelings.

Kishore in Thalaimai Seyalagam (2024). Courtesy Radaan Mediaworks/ZEE5.

However, all’s not well on Kotravai’s home front, where she is called a “bitch” to her face by her bad-tempered daughter Maaya (Sarah Black). A visit from the Maoist fighter Durga (Kani Kusruti) gives the normally composed Kotravai plenty of worry lines.

Two parallel investigations into Durga’s antecedents intersect with the game of thrones. Chennai cop Manikandan (Bharath) and Central Bureau of Investigation officer Nawas (Aditya Menon) are hot on Durga’s trail ever since she took a cleaver to adversaries and inconvenient associates.

Bankrolled by actor-producer and Bharatiya Janata Party member Raadhika Sarathkumar, Thalaimai Seyalagam (Secretariat) dips freely into gossip surrounding the leaders of Tamil Nadu and its neighbouring states. Seasoned performers who have done more subtle work elsewhere sportingly enact never-ending nefariousness.

Handed loud scenes and mediocre dialogue, the actors struggle to keep the show from sliding into parody. Might Kani Kusruti’s unusually off-key vamping or Kishore’s dubious elan be considered a kind of cri de coeur? Dunked into an overcooked concoction with unsavoury ingredients, the actors thrash about, with only Sriya Reddy and Santhana Bharathi (as Arunachalam’s aide) standing out.

The show works overtime to be a hard-hitting expose of all-too-familiar themes. Overblown writing and staging undermine the intent of providing a tour of the corridors of power, where the ghosts of dark deeds lurk.

Thalaimai Seyalagam (2024).