Blending that classic Indian texture of filmy drama with the series format is not an easy one to crack. Many shows that used the filmy approach to address the content have not really connected as they couldn’t find a striking balance between the content and the treatment. Aspirants Season 1, which I saw on YouTube a couple of years back, was one exception that blended these two elements very convincingly. And when it comes to the second season of Aspirants, which is now available on Amazon Prime Video, the tonality remains the same while the conflicts enter a much more murkier space.
In the last season, we saw these two parallel narratives in which we witnessed the Rajinder Nagar journey of Abhilash and his reconciliation with his close friends after a long time. This time, we see him as the DM who is trying to make a central government project a reality. In his jurisdiction ALC, Sandeep Ohlan, aka Sandeep Bhaiyya, is also there, who is helping laborers get their rights. However, Abhilash’s larger focus on development creates tension between him and Sandeep, as the latter wants to ensure justice for the workers. What we see in this second season of 5 episodes is how Abhilash handles the pressure of the situation that had an element of conflict of interest.
Since the last season ended with Abhilash getting another chance to crack UPSC, the writing of the second season gets to repeat the same parallel narrative structure where we are shuttling between the Rajinder Nagar life and official life in two tracks. There is a sense of evolvement in the way characters have been shaped in this season, as most of them have gone through a lot of things. While the first season was more inclined towards persistence and friendships, this time, the emphasis is more on the choices within the relationship with the dear ones. Even though it still works on an emotional level with those frames and background score, the extensiveness of the canvas, which we felt in season 1 with so much happening around the characters, was not really there in season 2.
Naveen Kasturia, as Abhilash Sharma, performs the self-centered aspect of the character in a very underplaying manner. He is not trying too much to show the character’s insecurity, but somehow, that figuring-out phase of the character gets conveyed through his performance. Sunny Hinduja, as Sandeep Bhaiyya, is actually in a very different zone altogether as he is depicted as this extremely sensitive guy who takes everything very personally. That’s like a 180-degree shift from what that character was in season 1, and the performance was really good with that convincing rural slang and grace in body language.
Abhilash Thapliyal, who had a more prominent space in season 1 as SK sir, is relatively less visible in this season as the focus has shifted from friendship. Shivankit Singh Parihar as Guri and Namita Dubey as Dhairya reprised their respective roles from the previous seasons. The significant new addition to the cast is Tengam Celine as Deepa Nabam, along with Shiva Hariharan, who plays a Malayali, widening the representation in the series.
As I already said, there is a shift in the core focus of the series as the characters have a different set of dilemmas to overcome. Even when we go to that Rajindar Nagar track, the parallels they are trying to create with the present day have a different nature. What I particularly liked about the first season was the relatable emotions and some dialogues by SK and Sandeep Bhaiyya. When season 2 became focused on the conflicts in bureaucratic decisions, it felt like the depth the first season managed to achieve was slightly lacking. Having said all this, the character development is still pretty layered and keeps you interested in understanding each character. The cinematography was impressive as the framing with mostly less crowded static shots gave the series that character-oriented outlook. The signature background score carries the emotional heft of moments very convincingly.
Directed by Apoorv Singh Karki, the second season of Aspirants may not be as vast as the first season in terms of the varieties of character equations. But it has the same grammar in exploring characters and establishing their dilemmas. With the equation between Sandeep and Abhilash taking a dramatic turn, the series has managed to stage season 2 as a setup for a thorny battle of the egos, which we will hopefully see in season 3.
With the equation between Sandeep and Abhilash taking a dramatic turn, the series has managed to stage season 2 as a setup for a thorny battle of the egos, which we will hopefully see in season 3.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended