Digital Review: ‘Aarya’ (Hotstar)

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Based on Dutch drama ‘Penoza’ (2017), Hotstar Specials’ presentation ‘Aarya’ was a web-series to be excited about. Co-created by Ram Madhvani and Sandeep Modi, the show had Sushmita Sen playing protagonist and this is perhaps reason enough to be drawn to it. However, the rest of the star cast was also something it boasted – including Chandrachur Singh, Namit Das, Ankur Bhatia, Sikandar Kher, Maya Sarao, Manish Chaudhari and others. To top it off, the trailer was so endearing that it immediately drew you in. But does it keep you there?

Adapted for the Hindi audience by writers Sandeep Srivastav and Anu Singh Choudhary, ‘Aarya’ shows the journey of a woman (Sen) whose husband Tej (Singh) gets killed outside their home after her brother Sangram (Bhatia) decides to steal some heroin from a well-known don-like character, Shekhawat (Chaudhari). Therein begins the journey of discovery for Aarya and as she vows to find out who killed Tej, protect her children and also uncover the real “risky” workings of his business, which he was going to leave before he died.

There’s no easy way to review this series because it is quite stunning in the way it is presented on screen. Sen’s portrayal of Aarya is full of anguish, strength, despair and love. You admire Aarya for her steel-like demeanour when it’s needed, being a shield in all the right places for her family when needed. However, as the story unravels, and the characters are all followed through, it becomes apparent that not only is all not what it seems but that there are many twists and unexpected strands which the viewers are kept on the edge-of-their-seats with.

Delving a little more into the characters and the actors that play them, you can absolutely see that the casting is, quite frankly, spot on. Singh makes his on-screen comeback as Tej and his pairing with Sen is interesting and also enough to see you through all the episodes – even the ones he’s not featured in. Bhatia as Sangram is perhaps the one which deserves the accolades because of the character’s versatility and the way this has been identified and played on during the plot – Bhatia does him complete justice. Das and Kher are equally intriguing in their roles as Jawahar and Daulat respectively but the beauty of these two characters are the unknowing feeling of what side they are really on – not to mention, Das’ portrayal of some vulnerability due to his drug addiction which could be described as making him a victim of circumstance. Sarao, after a praiseworthy performance in ‘Thappad’ earlier this year, makes for a great appearance as Jawahar’s wife, who seems to be caught up in something she definitely didn’t bargain for. Chaudhari as the “villain”, so to speak, completely fits the bit – he is a versatile actor and play Shekhawat with much vigour. Alexx ONell is also applauseworthy as his portrayal of a newly wed groom who has come into a family facing turmoil in different ways. The three actors that play Aarya’s children – Virti Vaghani, Viren Vazirani and Pratyaksh Panwar – are also to be appreciated as they also go through the emotions of losing their father, the youngest of which sees the ordeal right in front of his eyes.

The many twists and layers of ‘Aarya’ are enough to keep the viewer going and as the nine-episode series is further watched, you realise each episode just goes deeper into the tangled tale. This works both in favour of and against the series as a whole as sometimes it becomes a little too complicated but at other times you are completely shocked at what’s happening that you just want to know more. The pace of the series is also quite slow at some points which is quite disappointing but, as mentioned, the twists are aplenty in consolation. Sen very much leads the cast in the entire series and she holds her own all the way through – as one would expect. The drama, darkness and thrill of ‘Aarya’ is definitely in its characters and their actions and, obviously, Aarya is at the forefront of this. There’s a strong end, giving way to a potential second season which is something we should look forward to in the hope of an announcement in the affirmative – one can hope!

Watch this web-series if you are looking forward to Sen in her first web-series, and if you are, you’ll definitely see that the other actors are entirely the backbone of the show. They are the ones that provide Aarya with everything she needs to front this series and they prove it over and over again.

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