Kajal Aggarwal makes her streaming debut in a web series that combines laughs and scares. The Tamil-language Live Telecast comprises seven episodes and is being streamed on Disney+ Hotstar.
The premise of Venkat Prabhu’s show is that the line between fiction and reality is a thin one. Aggarwal plays Jennifer, the director of a popular television show called Dark Tales that dramatises encounters between humans and angry spirits. When Dark Tales starts slipping down the ratings scale, Jennifer comes up with a sleazy episode to keep viewers hooked.
The backlash causes Dark Tales to be taken off air. Clearly, the television network’s owner hasn’t heard of the showbiz axiom that bad publicity is better than no publicity.
Jennifer pulls another rabbit out of her hat. A family comprising a woman and her two children claims to be living in a possessed house. The son can apparently communicate with the ghost, leading him to develop a fixed stare and memory loss.
Jennifer swoops down on the family. This will be the first time that a ghost will be seen on television, she declares. Accompanied by her loyal crew, Jennifer turns up at the haunted house and has cameras fixed everywhere. For good measure, she keeps actors on standby should the spirit refuse to emerge.
What should have been a Bigg Boss-style reality show with a horror twist spirals out of control when the ghost actually does appear and starts misbehaving with the crew. The angry spirit especially loves to clutch people by their necks and lift them off the ground. As he/she/it goes on a rampage, the crew is stuck in the house and unable to leave. Their agony is broadcast to initially sceptical and later horrified television audiences.
Since the plot is skeletal, Venkat Prabhu throws in other elements, such as the various romantic entanglements of the crew members. The only relationship that gets proper play is the one involving production designer Sekar and costume designer Kalai. Vaibhav and Kayal Anandhi, who play these characters, are also among the better actors in the show, and certainly miles ahead of the severely limited Kajal Aggarwal.
Jennifer too is supposed to be involved with her cinematographer, but once the possession begins, we hear little more of it. One of the other mysteries is why Sekar, who appears to have powers of his own, is ignored when he first reports the young boy’s strange behaviour.
The boy, Sri (Sashank S), is clearly the show’s key character, but he too is neglected in the mess.
Over a staggering 224-minute duration, Venkat Prabhu keeps cutting between the crew members huddled in various rooms, the family members barricaded behind another door, the public that is watching the drama on their TV sets, and the personnel in the broadcasting van who are unable to help or rescue their colleagues. For good measure, a police officer pops up to add to the mayhem.
Low on visual effects, disinterested in fleshing out characters and unable to sustain an effectively suspenseful rhythm, Live Telecast resorts to humour every now and then to relieve the tedium.
When the jokes too begin to fall flat, it’s time to move towards the exit, only to learn that it is barred by the ghost.