The biggest pull of Aarya, streaming on Disney+Hotstar, will have to be Sushmita Sen. Forever etched in our memories as Miss Universe in her crowning glory, Sushmita plays the eponymous character around whom the story unfolds. Based on the Dutch series Penoza, it has been created for the Indian audience by Ram Madhvani and Sandeep Modi.
Click on the player below for the full podcast.
Madhvani, who has also directed the series along with Sandeep Modi and Vinod Rawat, has a knack of scooping out performances and playing to his actors’ strengths.
Sonam Kapoor in Neerja is proof . Here, too, the strong and confidant woman sits pretty on Sushmita’s well-toned shoulders. The first time we see her, the actor is immersed in aerial yoga . In fact, in the first episode, Sushmita seems to have come out of her own Instagram account. Her yoga videos, the perfectly turned-out glam avatar, those arched eyebrows as she enunciates each word - its like watching Sushmita play herself as she seamlessly merges with Aarya. It is a Sushmita show and she doesn’t disappoint.
The only problem is that by the end of the second episode, when a major plot turn takes place, we realise we have been with Aarya for a little less than two hours . Yes. The series seems mammoth, with each episode at least 50 minutes long and we have nine episodes to tackle. There are multiple characters, back stories and motives. While the world created not just draws us in but also makes us want to linger on (credit to writers Sandeep Shrivastava and Anu Singh Choudhary), the length can really push us to our limits given that the actual plot is spread too thin.
Chandrachur Singh, who also makes a comeback after ages, is there for only a couple of episodes but wins us over with an avuncular charm. This is a family that, under all its regal shimmer, has some dark secrets that create an uneasy foreboding tone. A drug deal goes bust. A powerful drug mafia kingpin Shekhawat (Manish Chaudhry) threatens Tej (Chandrachur Singh) and his partners Sangram (Ankur Bhatia) and Jawahar (Namit Das) with dire consequences, and the story unfolds subsequently.
Smelling a foul game ACP Khan, played with razor-sharp precision by Vikas Kumar, tries to get hold of the culprits and the one pitchforked into these extraordinary circumstances is Aarya. Aarya is the kind of woman who you know will land on her feet irrespective of how steep the fall is. Sushmita owns the character and looks like she is having a lot of fun playing her. The narrative is throbbing with family drama and intrigue with each character, be it Maya Sarao as her Aarya’s best friend, Sikander Kher as the quiet family loyalist Daulat or mother Sohaila Kapur drowning her sorrows in alcohol.
Aarya is indulgent with the pace. Sometimes too slow for comfort and even effectiveness. While the various subplots and the talent roped in keep us engaged, somewhere around the 5th episode the attention dwindles, only to pick up right in the end.
There is a strong hint for a Season 2 and while there is no denying that the world that is created is enigmatic and seduces the audience, things would have been far more enjoyable if it has been a little more pruned. Nevertheless, Aarya still has a lot going for it. watching Sushmita Sen bustle through her troubles with passionate ease is definitely of one of them.
Our rating: 3 Quints out of 5