The verdict is out – Sushmita Sen is the real and only star in the show. She looks perfect at all times. Aarya, a Hotstar Specials show delivers all eight episodes – each with a charatacter of their own.
Series creator Ram Madhvani plays around with its tone and texture ever so slightly. Sushmita Sen’s interpretation of a tormented but tenacious woman is magnificently pitch perfect. The cinematography (Sudip Sengupta), editing (Khusboo Raj and Abhimanyu Chaudhary) and the musical score (Vishal Khurana) are all first-string.
Sushmita Sen carries on from where she left off in Season 1. With nary a false step, she delivers another exceptional performance. It’s packed with power, tempered with restraint and elevated with an instinctive feel for the workings of the mind of a harried single mother. Struggling to shrug off her past and forge a tenable future in an inimical world where it is tough to tell friend from foe.
On her hesitant return from Australia to depose in court against her family, Aarya Sareen faces a vicious attack. That leaves her with a bullet wound. It strengthens her resolve to flee back to safety outside India. Neither her daughter Aru (Virti Vaghani) nor the subsequent turn of events allow her to beat a hasty retreat.
Season 2 of Aarya steers clear of all Bollywood excess. It adopts an even-handed storytelling style that bolsters both consistency and force. It packs a hefty punch without having to resort to superfluous means. What that does is whet our appetite for more.
The closing moments of the final episode throw the door open for another season. “Yeh kahani abhi khatam nahi hui hai (this story hasn’t ended yet),” says a man whose identity we know but whose face we do not see. “Yeh kahani toh abhi shuru hui hai (indeed, the story has just begun),” the protagonist retorts. We certainly aren’t complaining.
Season 2 is, for sure, not as high-octane nor as visceral as the first nine episodes of Aarya. It is none the worse for it. Its ambling rhythm allows room for the ambiguities inherent in the clash between personal interests and ethical questions. Even those who kill without a twinge of remorse, including the goons who unquestioningly serve their masters, aren’t heartless monsters.
Conversely, those who swear by their family, friends. And a supposed sense of fair play, including Aarya herself, think nothing of making morally questionable choices, impervious to the consequences of their acts on themselves and on their victims. Aarya is a deliciously dark and dodgy saga, but it is unwaveringly human at its core. The new season plays up to greater effect than before the psychological duality that dogs the heroine.
It reveals the fine line that separates outright lying and simply holding back the truth. Everybody in Aarya, from the seemingly humane heroine determined to protect her family at all costs. To the gruff musclemen and assassins who stop at nothing to carry out the orders of their bosses, has weaknesses.
Ram Madhvani treats the contradictions as they should be. He treats it without over-explaining the contradictory impulses. The compulsions of Aarya or the individuals around her who push her towards desperate measures. The show’s dramatic peaks, delivered with sustained control, are evenly spaced out. There are three crucial plot twists. First, these are centered in the main on the sly. Second, self-serving machinations of two suave patriarchs. Third, the wolves in sheep’s clothing, and their henchmen – are mined for maximum impact.