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Aarya (S01) Review: A captivating tale of a woman taking the front seat in the world of organized crime.

Aakash Mishra

The show starts with a murder and you think it might be all about finding the killer and taking revenge but it introduces newer elements gradually and thus invests you in a journey that is far better from a cliched murder mystery.

Creators: Ram Madhvani, Sandeep Modi
Cast: Sushmita Sen, Vikas Kumar, Namit Das, Sikandar Kher, Maya Sarao, Chandrachur Singh.
Streaming on: Disney+Hotstar

Disney+Hotstar’s Aarya stays true to its source material, the highly-acclaimed Dutch series Penoza which tells the story of a widow who establishes her position in organized crime. Rajasthan, a royal family, a pharmaceutical company that produces opium all this works as a perfect setting for the story to meet its demand in the atmosphere of India.

Aarya’s first episode shows a similar incident you have seen in Breathe, The Family Man, Paatal Lok. A child getting hold of a real gun. They might be for various purposes in each show but seeing it so many times it almost looks as if it’s a new trend for the Indian shows to show how children face the consequences of action caused by their parents. Tej (Chandrachur Singh) with Sangram and Jawahar runs the pharmaceutical company of Aarya’s father. Things start to turn upside down when Sangram steals a consignment from their rivals. After the wedding of Soundarya(Aarya’s sister), a husband dies, a wife becomes the man of the house and an illegal company.

Hotstar has a history of remaking acclaimed shows, it hasn’t worked in the past very well but it certainly worked this time. And what keeps the whole drama together is the dysfunctionality and proper characterization of the show. The grieving process of a family at the loss of life is used effectively to give proper shapes to all the characters in the show. The show makes a woman handling a crime business its central theme but it doesn’t keep the grief of losing someone completely aside and in fact, produces a unique blend of both the elements. The show starts with a murder and you think it might be all about finding the killer and taking revenge but it introduces newer elements gradually and thus invests you in a journey that is far better from a cliched murder mystery. The ‘whodunnit’ takes a back seat and ‘who is behind this new mess’ takes the driver seat.

Sushmita Sen brilliantly plays Aarya, who shifts swiftly from a soft-hearted mother to an insensitive woman in the evil game of organized crime usually played by men. You realize she has changed a lot from the first episode when you see her scaring of a hired gunman and then imitating the action of a lioness attacking with her claws. The show amazingly becomes a narrative in which women take charge and men play as side characters. It suddenly becomes a game of who holds the actual control and clearly the leading lady of the show, in her own ways, at different moments tells how men who think they are controlling everything, is just an illusion created by their own minds. At times, the show clearly gives the vibes of Ozark whose protagonist is a widowed Wendy.

The show even installs interesting side characters into the system of the show. For example, NEB Head Mr. Khan played by ever-reliable Vikas Kumar represent sexual as well as a religious minority. Sikandar Kher playing as Man Friday for the family who does everything in hindsight, still stands calm and composed observing everything in every direction like a hidden CCTV camera. Jawahar, a cocaine addict friend who gets beaten constantly by someone or the other, stunningly played by one of my favorite Namit Das, the Sumit from the show Sumit Sambhal Lega. The only thing that troubled me was the dialogues of the show. They sounded pretty inauthentic at different instances and aren’t much thought-provoking or ‘greatly helpful’ for a particular scene. What really helped the show in creating the atmosphere of grief is the favorite songs of the dead. From ‘Bade Ache Lagte Hain ‘ to ‘Akele Akele’, we don’t see the dead but we are constantly made to remember him.

Overall, Aarya sets up as a brilliant debut for Sushmita Sen and the show can definitely be turned into a well-organized crime drama series with many seasons.

FINAL VERDICT – A good start, deserves a watch.

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