Aarya Web Series Review: Starkly slow, yet sorted!
Aarya is a series that you would otherwise label a crime thriller.
On: Disney+ Hotstar
Creator-producer: Ram Madhvani
Cast: Sushmita Sen, Manish Chaudhary, Vikas Kumar
This is a series that you would otherwise label a crime thriller. Except, it goes so swiftly and deeply into parenting, child and teenage psychology, loss and sorrow, that most hardcore aficionados of the genre might just go, "So slow." Or, "Really long."
Which are possibly the two most common yet least articulate issues that filmgoers typically express for movies they don't enjoy — for various reasons. But they just say, too slow, or too long.
Length or pace, in a more practical, measured sense, only means the time taken to tell a story, and build on characters. Sure this series is slow, therefore feels long. And that's because there are just too few characters; but more importantly, far too little going on in their lives, in terms of multiple intrigues and sub-plots, to merit 50-plus minutes' episodes, nine times over, for a single season of a series.
Must also mention, things do start getting a tad incredulous here, beyond a point; and on occasion it was hard, for me personally, to place the supposed high-society of hollowed out Rajasthan royals this series is set among.
That said, and all sand dusted: Does the world created here draw you in? Hell yeah. From the get go. And this is because some of the scenes are choreographed with such care, the characters fitting into them so wonderfully, that at some point, I thought of literally logging those specific sequences from the timeline — for instance, check out the 25th minute, Episode 4 (poor woman's home), etc.
Just to alert you of the subtly great parts to watch out for. Of course if that randomly stayed in your head, it would actually interfere with the first-time experience of watching the show itself. So don't worry. Doing no such thing.
Bear in mind that you're set to survey a full-on fictional world of super-rich desi families swimming in the heart of darkness. Where every person on screen is doing something or the other that nobody should know about.
The choices before you are essentially within a bunch of spiffy looking villains. Or as my take-away line from the series goes, "Kabhi kabhi baat ghalat aur sahi ki nahin; ghalat aur kam ghalat ki hoti hai (Sometimes, it's not about good and evil; but evil, and less evil!)." Instantly applies to politics, in particular.
Watch the trailer of Sushmita Sen-starrer Aarya here
Also, helps that besides being a top-grade aesthete, Ram Madhvani, the show's creator, can stage strong emotions and pure indoor-drama — like few filmmakers can. Why do I say that in particular? Because he managed a feature-length movie of the calibre of Marriage Story (2019), back in 2002 (Let's Talk) — starring just two actors, before a grainy digital camera. And boy can he extract performances. Citing Sonam Kapoor in Madhvani's Neerja (2016), for reference. Weigh that against her entire life's work put together!
Here's another advantage that Madhvani, co-creator and director Sandeep Modi and co-director Vinod Rawat and crew enjoy on a series. Given that the simultaneous elbow room it allows so many actors, you're amazed at the vastness of talent available to observe, or simply be awed by. Because you've never seen them before. There ought to be a special award instituted to pick the hidden gems from every Indian series lately.
My vote here would go to Vikas Kumar, who plays the most generic looking UPSC-qualified Indian cop ever. A close second has to be the rich, Rajput dude — actor Ankur Bhatia — that the cop puts in jail for drug possession. This is to take away nothing from others in yet another casting gold-mine— Maya Sarao, Sikander Kher, Manish Chaudhary...
Make no mistake though. This is a Sushmita Sen show, through and through. Her return to the screen, yes. But perhaps her first role in forever (that at least I can recall) which is centred so much on a multi-layered character. Rather than her luminous presence alone — which is how this starts off, really.
First few minutes, with her poise, and the perfect pout, playing a sassy daughter to her old man (Jayant Kripalani), with a young girlfriend, I thought we were going Jesse Armstrong's Succession (2018) route!
But, no, this is about drugs and killing, the templates for which are more likely to be Breaking Bad or Narcos. Aarya is an official adaptation of the Dutch series Penoza (that I haven't seen). The brief for Sen's eponymous character, I'm guessing, would've been a fierce/ferocious tigress, protecting her cubs (kids). Saying this because it showed up in a line. There's tragedy in the family.
The show pauses for grief. Long hard pauses. And I like that. Actor Chandrachur Singh plays the husband. And, oh man, haven't seen this CC Singh in ages on screen. He's teenage history for my generation! Looks like a version of Shashi Tharoor now! Only, more charming perhaps. Gotta see more of CC on TV. Certainly deserved greater footage here as well.
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