Aarya 2(Disney+Hotstar, 8 episodes)
Directed by Ram Madhvani, Kapil Sharma, Vinod Rawat
Rating: *** ½
Normally the thought of a sequel to a webseries scares the hell out of me. These encores are more often than not, an excuse for carrying things too far.
Not Aarya. Not Ram Madhvani and Sushmita Sen. The lethal duo have sculpted the most engaging crime drama on this side of the first season of Mirzapur.Aarya 2 is everything that a sequel to a triumphant first-season should be. It is gritty and revealing, powerful and yet sensitive where it needs to be.The shocks and surprises never stop spilling out right until the end .
It is a defly-written drama yoking its violent heart with a solid storytelling that moves fluently from hand-held camera sequences to solidly-grounded dramatic conflicts where the camera abnegates its presence. Madhavani who is master of dramatic crisis, uses Sushmita Sen’s powerhouse presence to fuel the kind of agile angry emotions that show her character as awoman in charge without masculinizing her character.
Sen’s Aarya Sareen is at once Diva and Don.Macho and Feminine. She is fire and ice without making a song and dance of the fusion process.It’s hard to imagine what Ram Madhvani’s series would have been without his leading lady.Sushmita anchors the violent heart of the plot with a bedrock of macho muliebrity.
If Aarya’s family is her weakness, her children are also her strength. She nurtures the mother within her with her sweat and blood. It’s a performance steeped in a history of fiercely protective motherhood from Nargis in Mother India to Sridevi in Mom.
The second season opens with Aarya and the children being forced back from the relative safety of Australia to the crime hub of Mumbai by a well-meaning but progressively waylaid police officer Khan (Vikas Kumar) who is grappling with his homosexuality,and the most loathsome public prosecutor I’ve ever seen(played by Dilnaz Irani) .
There is a heartstopping moment in the second episode where Aarya’s security under the witness-protection plan is whisked away from under her feet. Suddenly she stands all alone vulnerable, likely to be killed at any moment. Sushmita Sen imbues these moments of absolute vulnerability with an ambivalent strength. She tells us it is okay to be unprotected and scared.
Aarya Sareen’s journey into the heart of darkness is well plotted. The tension never slackens as the plot takes Aarya through a journey of family feuds and patricide that leave her as stunned as the audience.
While Sen towers over the plot the other actors are drawn with notable sharpness. Ankur Bhatia’s Sangram(Aarya’s brother) and Sikandar Kher’s Daulat(Aarya’s faithful right-hand man) stand out in the crowd of jostling avengers.And Aarya’s best friend Maya(Maya Sarao) has the single most powerful moment in the series when she flings aside selfinterest to be a loyal friend.
Not all of the storytelling works that well. There is an important cremation sequence where the emotional velocity goes out of control.And the way Aarya finally takes on the mafia is clearly a hard pill to swallow for the audience.
What works without fail is the director’s confidence in his heroine’s ability to conquer adversity. When it comes to her children Aarya Sareen never falters .Even if her world is falling apart she makes sure that her family doesn’t slip through the cracks.
I love the way Madhvani uses gun shots to punctuate the anxiety and fear rather than to highlight the violence. He has a penchant for vintage music. Lata Mangeshkar’s Aa jaan-e-jaan and Mohammed Rafi’s Chahe koi mujhe jungle kahe come into play as though they were composed for this occasion only.
There is a disquieting inevitability about Aarya. A sense of foreshadowed crisis which makes it an incredibly irresistible experience. Season 3 is eagerly awaited. Suraj, Aarya’s latest enemy, is on his way.He doesn’t know what he is up against.