aarya

A scene from "Aarya" starring Sushmita Sen. (photo provided)

The big novelty of “Aarya” is that a crime drama is told from the perspective of a wronged woman.

And this wronged woman, Aarya (Sushmita Sen), who hated crime though her husband Tej (Chandrachur Singh) is involved in for over 17 years, faces a situation where she has no choice but to adopt a life of crime herself. After all, as a doting mother, she has to save her three lovably normal kids, Veer (Viren Vazirani), daughter Arundhati (Virti Vaghani) and cute little Adi (Pratyaksh Panwar) who actually witnesses a key murder.

The plot involves a drug cartel led by Shekhawat (Manish Chaudhari), a dogged cop (Vikas Kumar) who suspects almost everybody and is a gay (this needless add-on makes no sense in the context of the show and seems to pander to the ‘today’ culture), and Aarya’s hot-headed and impulsive brother Sangram (Ankur Bhatia).

Family issues are skillfully blended in. Sangram loves a beautician (Sugandha Garg), Aarya’s sister Soundarya (Priyasha Bhardwaj) has married Bob, a foreigner musician (Alexx O’Nell), and her father (Jayant Kripalani) has remarried a young and nubile Rads a.k.a. Radhika (Flora Saini), seemingly also to satisfy his still high libido) to the disgust of his first wife (Sohaila Kapur).

Arundhati has a crush on Bob, while Veer has a soft corner for the oh-so-bold-and-carefree Pallavi (Gargi Sawant), living alone in their city in a hostel. Tej’s and Sangram’s business associate is Jawahar (Namit Das) who is totally unscrupulous, while Daulat (Sikander Kher) is the family’s go-to security guy. intensely loyal to the family, no matter what.

Stolen heroin worth Rs. 300 crore, murders, kidnappings, secrets, blackmail, torture, conspiracies and more, “Aarya” is full of it all. But unlike the dark storytellers, Madhvani’s selection of the story is praiseworthy. He balances the crisis with the sense of belonging within a family, yet exposes the sham prevalent in prosperous families (which includes flouting norms and marrying again) and sends subtle messages, turning preachy only towards the end as Aarya faces a moral crisis akin to Arjun’s in “Mahabharat.” What is esepcailly interesting is Bob’s deep interest in the Bhagwad Geeta, even to the extent of using its elements in his Fusion concert.

Madhvani, who so brilliantly helmed the hard-hitting “Neerja” (2016) adds to his repertoire with this complex fiction saga that is thus the converse of that simple tale in structure. There is a twist in the end, of course, without which Season 2 will not be possible, but it is strictly within logical limits.

Technically rich (the background music works big too), the series marks a very, very impressive comeback for Sushmita Sen, who has always been a fine and versatile actor. She is pitch-perfect as the affectionate and pleading wife, the proud yet often helpless mother, the distraught woman who still has to shoulder sudden and uncongenial responsibilities and the ruthless businesswoman who learns literally on the job exactly how to deal with predatory cops as well as renegades in the business and other evils. This is as impressive a web comeback as Sridevi’s “English Vinglish” on the big screen.

Each and every actor puts in a fine to better performance, but to me, the standout ones, apart from the three kids of Aarya and Gargi Sawant who plays Pallavi, are of Manish Chaudhari as Shekhawat, Sikander Kher as Daulat, Ankur Bhatia as Sangram and Vishwajeet Pradhan as Shekhawat’s right hand Sampat.

A special pat for the one-liners to the two writers, Sandeep Shrivastava & Anu Singh Choudhary—with this one ace, “Aarya” raises its standard to the level of a commercial big-screen entertainer with mass-friendly “dialoguebaazi,” and since this is a Dutch adaptation, it sets a benchmark on how foreign material can be skillfully Indianized.

At nine episodes of 50 minutes-plus each, “Aarya” is a marathon. However, unlike “Your Honor” and some others, the material does have meat, and maybe of the 450-plus minutes, a crisp 400 would have added muscle to its strengths. Even more creditably, the show does not bore but for moments here and there.

And yes, Madhvani’s future projects are now eagerly awaited. He is clearly among our greatest directorial talents from the ad film world.

Rating: ****

Created by:Ram Madhvani & Sandeep Modi

Produced by: Ram Madhvani, Amita Madhvani & Endemol Shine India

Directed by: Ram Madhvani, Sandeep Modi & Vinod Rawat

Written by: Sandeep Shrivastava & Anu Singh Choudhary and based on the Dutch series “Penoza” by Pieter Bart Korthuis

Music: Vishal Khurana

Starring: Sushmita Sen, Chandrachur Singh, Sikander Kher, Jayant Kripalani, Namit Das, Gargi Sawant, Ankur Bhatia, Alexx O’Nell, Manish Choudhary, Virti Vaghani, Viren Vazirani, Pratyaksh Panwar, Sugandha Garg, Priyasha Bhardwaj,

Sohaila Kapur, Maya Sarao, Vishwajeet Pradhan, Vikas Kumar, Jagish Purohit, Flora Saini & others

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