Set in a universe where morality is fickle and betrayal a cherished value, the crime series, in its second season, hasn’t lost its captivating intrigue and texture.
Aarya Sareen (Sushmita Sen) is made to return to India with her children to depose against her Machiavellian father Zorawar (Jayant Kripalani), impetuous brother Sangram (Ankur Bhatia), and, of course, the scheming Shekhawats, led by the duplicitous Udayveer (Akash Khurana). But destiny has something else in store for Aarya, as she and her children once again get sucked into the designs of her siblings, friends, and rivals, and the Russian mafia. Some of them seek revenge, but all of them are after the prized contraband that apparently landed into the hands of the police at the end of the first season.
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As new plots are hatched and bullets are fired to silence Aarya — despite promises of police protection by the well-meaning ACP Yunus Khan (Vikas Kumar) — it becomes imperative for her to make compromises with the killers of her husband Tej Sareen (Chandrachur Singh) to live to fight another day. It creates emotional fissures in her family, and ultimately Aarya is once again forced to bare her claws and get her hands dirty to save her brood, leading to some intense drama, laced with gripping action.
The underlying theme of ‘my family is both my strength and weakness’ is not exactly new, but the way show creator and co-director Ram Madhvani has mounted the series, you remain invested till the climax of the eight-episode season.
A lot of credit goes to the art directors who have created an enchanting modern Rajasthani milieu that combines the royal Haveli culture of the past with the uber-chic that dots the desert state today. Like the first season, Ram has made interesting use of old songs to layer the proceedings in the last three episodes. S.D. Burman’s Meri Duniya Hai Maa Tere Aanchal Main from Talash (1969) strikes the right chord all over again, as differences between Aarya and her daughter Arundhati (Virti Vaghani) swell.
The dialogues are sharp and loaded with meaning, but the conversation seldom reduces to a melodramatic jugalbandi. In between the gunshots, Ram pulls the strings of the heart in this tale of human greed where redemption is not easy. Sequences where Sangram gets kidnapped when his wife Hina (Sugandha Garg) is in the labour room, or when the little son of Aarya pulls a gun at the killer of his father stay with you. When a character like Sampat (Vishwajeet Pradhan) turns out to be more than just a hardened criminal, it surprises you. And when the killer combination of Aarya and her friend Maya (Maya Sarao) swags, it entertains you.
It is the relatable character arcs and gutsy performances that ensure that you don’t reach out for the remote, even when the proceedings become predictable in a couple of episodes.
Cast in an author-backed role, Sushmita lives up to the comparison of a hurt lioness forced to hunt down her rivals to save her children. Over the years, she has hardly been provided with the material that suits her strong personality. Put to test here as a ‘working’ mother, she brings in her gravitas, polished demeanour, and emphatic voice to make a larger-than-life heroic character make her own. Displaying a range of emotions, she embodies the fears, the moral dilemmas, and the courage of Aarya and is the primary reason that keeps you hooked to the series.
Sushmita brings a certain grace to Aarya which she doesn’t shed even when she is pushed to a corner. More than anything else, it is this kindness and elegance that unsettles her rivals and wins over the audience.
Ram has put a seasoned support cast around her to keep the scenario believable and Sushmita on her toes. Apart from the ever-reliable Kripalani and Khurana, Sohaila Kapur and Geetanjali Kulkarni put in their best, but it is Sushmita’s show all the way.
Aarya 2 is currently streaming on Disney+Hotstar