In Aarya Season 1, which brilliantly told the story of The Rise of The Phoenix, one thing was very firmly established. Aarya was Sushmita Sen, and Sushmita Sen was Aarya. Her career defining performance, Sushmita was Sen-sational the way she arrived. At one go, she nailed down the complex emotions of a wailing wife, a super protective mother, and vulnerable helpless human being who would do anything to protect the dignity of her immediate family, and fiercely guard her exposed children and self from anything that comes and harms them. And there was enough and more of evil engulfing her from all around waiting for any opportunity to get them, destroy them. By the end of Season 1, Aarya had won some battles, but those transient wins had given rise to more harmful antagonists and Aarya, with all her might, had thought that going away from all that would keep her family safe, give them the much needed peace they deserved and craved for. Aarya Season 2 picks up right from that point.
We are told that their temporary exile to New Zealand and then Australia did not work, the family went through some terrible emotional crisis, and now they are back in Rajasthan because that’s where the key convicts of the drug cartel case, Aarya’s own father and brother, plus Shekhawat’s father are now under trial. She is the key witness for police and public prosecution, who have such loopholes in their system that she comes under fierce attack right under their nose. Her inner fire drives her to take things in her own hand, and in the process she creates more enemies within the system now, including Inspector Khan who was her confidant in Season 1. Honestly, just like Aarya, who is struggling to find a grip of the situation, the proceedings of Season 2 also struggle to find the right footing for the first couple of episodes. But once it finds the right mojo, it soars and flies, just as we expect from Aarya and her aspirational determination.
A striking difference between the two seasons in my mind is the ever rising dominance of Sushmita Sen as the be-all in the show as things progress. In Season 1, there were some very solid performances especially by Namit Das (Jawahar), Vikas Kumar (Khan) and Pratyaksh Panwar (Adi), along with Sushmita of course. But in Season 2, the writing and the performances are such that Sen almost chews everyone else in each frame, and she is almost there in every one of it. She is in absolutely spectacular form, and it is amazing how she brings out the simmering fierceness on screen without giving up on the compassionate vulnerability for a single moment. In fact, as she continues to deal with the issues of her children, Veer, Adi and especially Aru (in this season), we see that she never loses sight of her motherly instinct even with others. So even when she is making a 300 crore drug deal, it is Aru that she sees in the 21 year old Roop thrown into that situation and eventually takes the young girl in her own shelter. Similarly, while she uses the cute, innocent grandkids of Shekhawat as her protective cover to keep herself alive, one has to be wowed by the empathy she brings in to deal with the kids with absolute feather gloves even in such a tricky situation. This is Aarya rising in her stature from just being the mother of the Sareens. This is the rise of The Godmother in the true sense of the word, the new and only Hukum who will rule – As Sampat would put it, after all there can only be one Hukum in the town at a time. But to Aarya, she the just the working mother, who will do what she has to do to protect her children and her folk.
Makers Ram Madhvani and Sandeep Modi get most of the things right for a second straight season. The writing is solid for the most part, and although the side performances of Season 2 are relatively paler, the likes of Maya Sarao (Maya), Virti Vaghani (Aru), Vishwajeet Pradhan (Sampat) surely shine. Vikas Kumar does the best he can, but I felt his Inspector Khan got shortchanged with some haphazard character arc development. His personal back story also doesn’t help him as it exists in sheer tokenism. Similarly, Geetanjali Kulkarni (Sushila) and Sikandar Kher (Daulat) demanded more focus on them, and it would be interesting to see the Khan vs Sushila musings in the upcoming chapters of Aarya’s life. The weakest writing and performance of Season 2 however came in the form of Dilnaz Irani (Public Prosecutor), who was completely over the top and her unnecessary and ill placed aggression just did not fit in to the tone of the show at all. Akash Khurana (Senior Shekhawat) is also a way more seasoned actor and possibly deserved more. Personally would have loved to see more of Sohaila Kapur (Rajeshwari) in both the seasons, because honestly Aarya gets most of her poise and elegance from her classy mother on screen.
But these are minor blips in an otherwise highly engaging and well made series. The technical aspects of the show shine again, right from Cinematography to Editing to Production Design to Costumes (Aarya’s wardrobe, My My! )! And of course the music! Right from Season 1, the makers of Aarya did this amazing thing with using the Retro music of 60s and 70s beautifully interweaved in the narrative, and we sang in unison ‘Bade achhe lagte hain‘. The tradition gets carried forward with elan in Season 2, and gets a terrific culmination in the well choreographed Holi celebration scene towards the end with an amazing use of folk music, colors and mood. The feel was almost as intoxicating as the final community celebration dance of Monsoon Wedding. Personally for me however, the highpoint of the music came in the mind-blowing and absolutely whacky placement of ‘Nakhrewali.. Dekhne me dekh lo hain kaisi bholi bhali‘ in a very edgy narrative situation! Cheeky! Smart!
It is a rare occurrence for a critically acclaimed as well as popular Hindi web series to come back with a Season 2, which is as much of an engaging and satisfying watch if not more than its preceding season, and has now metamorphosed its protagonist from a bat hanging upside down in the first scene of Season 1, to an eagle with a hawk’s eye in the last scene of Season 2. But Sushmita Sen and Ram Madhvani make that possible! With some uber confidence! We are ready for more! Bring it on!
Aarya Season 2 is now playing on Disney Hotstar Premium and is a must watch.
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