Aarya, the latest Hotstar Special is a thoroughly gripping series that rarely has a weak point. This is the official adaptation of the Dutch series Penoza. On the face, it may look like a killing spree, but along with that, they are exploring the human side of the story and that element helps the content in holding the viewer’s interest. With almost every episode leaving you excited or shocked, Aarya is a perfect binge-watch material.
Aarya Sareen is married to Tej Sareen who is a partner in a pharmaceutical company that facilitates the illegal opium business of Aarya’s family. A new plan by Aarya’s brother Sangram to up the business by doing transport of Heroin creates a conflict among the three partners and it all culminates in the death of Tej. Aarya also gets dragged into the picture when the Heroin goes missing. What we get to see in this series is Aarya doing things that she never wanted to do in order to save her family.
From the word go, Aarya is exciting and that was really fascinating for me. Sandeep Shrivastava and Anu Singh Choudhary are doing the establishing side of the story along with its progress. They are not wasting any time by showing a usual day at Tej’s work. We are shown the morning schedule in this house that has three school-going kids and from there itself we get an idea about who is feeling alone, who needs more attention etc. We are introduced to almost every pivotal character in the whole series within the first episode itself. And the recurring names in the dialogues are sort of putting you in the middle of the action.
When Aarya is dragged into the whole deal by the rivals we are not only seeing her dealing with the messy cartel. We are seeing a single mom handling the whole family. And beyond the crime spree, we are becoming familiar with the inner turmoil of each member in the picture. Aru and Bob are forming a bond, Veer is finding comfort in his new relationship and Adi can’t really escape the nightmare dreams as he witnessed his own father’s death. The father being a part of a drug cartel and mother undertaking the same business after his murder is not the relatable element in this story for a viewer. But these personal struggles of individuals after the demise of someone whom they loved a lot is a connecting emotion and the reason why Aarya stays with you is because of the perfect balancing it has in these two areas. As the story progresses the conflicts are becoming greyer and it becomes a representation of how ego, greed, and pride can take you down. Towards the end when Aarya emotionally talks to her father about her transition from being a jovial housewife to this next big name in the cartel, one could visualize that eventful journey.
Directed by Ram Madhvani, Sandeep Modi, and Vinod Rawat, Aarya has some signature style elements that stay with you. Tej’s love for music becomes a tool for the whole series to move forward. Most of the episodes are ending with a retro song set in the contrasting mood. The way the story deviates from other characters is also interesting. The love track of Veer, the Bhagavad Geetha-driven bonding between Bob and Aru, the recovering Adi, etc. are tracks that could have reduced the tension created through the bloodshed and nasty cartel politics. But the screenplay knows how to place those characters. Even the character of the investigating officer Khan has a personal struggle and even though he is against Aarya in the story, we would feel empathy because of the discrimination he was facing. Harshvir Oberai’s cinematography is exquisite. The shadowy visuals with a lot of close-ups and medium shots maintain the level of intensity. The editing is also fabulous as the story navigates through parallel tracks frequently and we are not really missing the surprise.
Sushmita Sen is fabulous as the titular character. From being that happy mother who takes care of the children and who also smartly manages the tension between her father and mother during her sister’s wedding, Aarya transforms and becomes something else. Sushmita utilizes the time the series format gives her to develop the character and we as an audience get to see the gradual transition. For me, the best moments in her performance was the hospital sequence. The tears are not really flowing from her eyes, but she is absolutely terrified and she is holding her children together; that scene and the performance had the quality to make us believe that Aarya has the mental strength to do what we see her do post that.
Chandrachur Singh as Tej was a really good choice as he was able to give that vibe of being a happy person without much greed. He is that believable responsible elder one. Namit Das gets to play a character that we don’t usually associate with him and he was able to deliver a solid performance as that clueless guy with greedy intentions. Maya Sarao who was last seen in Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad was also impressive. The three kids of Aarya played by Virti Vaghani, Viren Vazirani, and Pratyaksh Panwar delivered quality performances. The casting in general is spot on. Sikandar Kher as Daulat doesn’t have much to do here rather than being this bouncer-like character who does anything without asking any question, but the sheer physicality and the single expression gives us an idea about the stubbornness of that character. ACP Khan played Vikas Kumar is another finely written character. Vikas Kumar who has worked as a dialect coach in many movies played the role of an earnest police officer who was dealing with two battles at the same time. And it was interesting how the screenplay managed to generate empathy towards that character that was actually an annoying presence in our leading lady’s life. Alexx ONell, Manish Choudhary, Ankur Bhatia, Jayant Kripalani, Sugandha Garg, and several other actors are here with small yet memorable performances.
The way the script finds humane emotions in a plot that has nothing familiar for a normal viewer is what makes Aarya a compelling watch. We get to see enough of each character that almost everyone occupies our headspace. Even that character of Sampat played by Vishwajeet Pradhan gets a scene of his own and this effort to give an identity to each character truly helps Aarya in attaining an appreciable depth.
The way the script finds humane emotions in a plot that has nothing familiar for a normal viewer is what makes Aarya a compelling watch.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended