Set in Rajasthan, Aarya is a crime-thriller drama that released on 19 June 2020, starring Sushmita Sen in the titular role. Inspired by the Dutch series Penoza, Ram Madhvani and Sandeep Modi co-created Aarya for Hotstar Specials. The Madhvani-Modi-Vinod Rawat direction, combined with a skilled cast of Sen, Chandrachur Singh, Sikandar Kher and Vikas Kumar, is definitely entertaining but unfortunately forgettable.
So, Aarya and Tej Sareen are a happily married, midlife couple leading regular, normal lives with their three kids. Until…Tej is murdered and their youngest son pulls out a gun at school and Aarya finds herself in the middle of an illegal drug trading controversy that was hidden behind her family’s innocent pharmaceutical company. Yeah. Some twist, right? The interesting thing that does happen is that Aarya, after denial, anger and finally acceptance, takes over the pharma company and deals with the illegal drug business and all the dirt that comes with it: the Russian mafia, Indian law and ACP Narcotics, Inspector Khan (Vikas Kumar), all the while trying to protect her children from hitmen and breaching the law.
Let’s start with the story and direction. While the first episode makes you yawn as it draws on lengthy, unnecessary scenes that feel forced to be dramatic and ‘real,’ the actual excitement of the plot only peaks midway. So, you really have to persevere with it. It’s supposed to be set in Rajasthan, but that’s not a very believable narrative because apart from appropriating ‘khamba gani,’ the Sareen family and acquaintances seem to be from Bandra. However, there are some great shots and moments of cinematic freshness that imbue the series with heightened interest, angles that draw the viewer into the world of pharmaceuticals fronting massive drug trades, the grime of Indian law and, almost oppositely, the shared laughs and tears among family.
The cast is definitely a talented bunch, which is basically the fundamental expectation of webseries these days. The Indian audience no longer wants to see perfectly manicured actors reading out of a manual; the ‘in thing’ is real, raw, gross, inhumane portrayals of people. Well, Sen has definitely proven her acting chops with Aarya, with gripping, emotional scenes matching the same intensity as the maternal ones. It is refreshing to watch a woman who can be equal parts maternal and family-oriented, and equal parts badass. However, it’s so hard to believe that a woman, although coming from wealth, is always spic and span with her hair perfectly blowdried when she’s just fired gunshots and/or been interrogated and/or almost lost her life. Chandrachur Singh’s Tej is a little sad and very dad; he performed rather skillfully. Vikas Kumar has, as expected, done great honesty to ACP Khan, and costars Sikander Kher, Ankur Bhatia, Alex ONell and Namit Das were supremely engaging and pivotal to the story moving forward. While they were obviously dedicated to their roles, performing them with honesty, the stories of Daulat, Sangram, Bob, Jawahar, along with Veer, Arundati and Aditya (Sareen chidren) become far too many to focus on. Aarya becomes scattered midway, like it’s trying hard to tie all these characters back to the main plotline, only to end up with loose, frayed ends.
All in all, Aarya is an entertaining webseries of 9 episodes, each ranging for an average of an hour. But the series doesn’t really stay with you. We live in an age of overexposure to online content, where binge-watching and instant clicking is the norm to finish off weeks worth of TV shows in a single day. This only means that after having consumed so much, after having so much to consume, very little actually stays with us. It’s hard to make memorable content–especially series content–in the current age, as Aarya is proof. The show was not very believable at many points, its characters took themselves way too seriously and the plot felt like it had too many gaps and loopholes in between. Aarya didn’t really jar me or make me think about, well, anything really. So watch it if you want to take your mind off of covid and the shitfest that is 2020. But not if you want to be moved, stirred or awakened in any way whatsoever.
Watch Aarya on Disney Hotstar+