Director Ram Madhvani has once again placed the patriarchal performances of the Bollywood community on hold as audiences immerse themselves in a story reliant on the power of the matriarch. Through the production of Aarya, Sushmita Sen – Aarya Sareen- comes alive as she commands the center screen through the role of a mother, widow, and mafia royale. The story goes beyond distrust, betrayal, and loss. It spirals through the psychology of each character as the stakes get higher and the emotions project from the characters to the audience. The bellowing bellies of the greedy through the gangs connected to the main character, Aarya, elevate their demands as the Sareen family is continuously put through a tunnel of jeopardy. Aarya no longer relies on the shoulders of others to cry on, it’s left to her to protect her pack through the story of anguish, frustration, suspense, and unexpected exploitation.
The opening scene paints the picture of a normal family setting of the Sareen family with, Aarya, her husband Tej, and their three children, Veer, Arundathi, and Adi. Through generations of secrecy, Tej Sareen, played by Chandrachur Singh, goes to work at the family-run, pharmaceutical business, acting as a front to an illegal opium/drug syndicate. Tej is employed by Aarya’s father, Zorawar played by the notable Jayant Kripalani, along with Sangram, played by Ankur Bhatia, and Jawahar played by Namit Das. The three men play along with the transportation of those illegal goods, until one day, Sangram brings upon the burden after he steals heroin from their rival gang, lead by Shekawat played by Manish Choudary. In a matter of days the family priding themselves after gathering wealth through this business without interruptions, changes course through a twisted corridor of murder and reminiscent motifs of old Hindi tunes.
The path of freedom is narrowing for the Sareen family. The show revolves around the life of Aarya, after the murder of her husband, Tej Sareen. Chandrachur Singh, plays a role that includes small screen time, though, his legacy lasts to avenge the inner vengeance in Sushmita Sen to devote herself to capturing the stolen consignments from Shekawat and return them to him in order for her family to endure a life far away from drug mules, and a syndicate that causes toxic relationships within Aarya’s family. The family of Aarya includes Zorawar (the unfaithful father), Sangram (the malicious son), and Soundarya (the high spirited youngest daughter). Aarya soon realizes her importance to maintain sanity in the family as her defense is let down as soon as her younger brother, Sangram, winds up incarcerated, through the evidence of heroin in his possession while in his car. Though Sangram held an important position in the drug syndicate, his incompliance to negotiate with the rival after the theft becomes an awakening matter to Aarya as she now surfaces herself directly dealing with Shekawat.
Sushmita Sen’s performance alongside the characters playing her family shows her dominance to uphold a sense of strength as the theme of loss becomes an all too known factor in the family’s willingness to reconnect. Sushmita adds a compelling psychological dimension to the show as she navigates through a variety of emotions all while ensuring to the audience that she has and will not let her guard down for anyone. This quintessential side of her character seems to not rub off the right way with others as they all believe they can con her into exploiting secrets between her and her husband. Her husband played by, Chandrachur Singh has never seemed to hold the amount of brood confidence and lack of empathy needed in his role of leading the front of the pharmaceutical opium business, which is a possible element in his murder. The grief that has injected itself in Aarya’s life has never left the face of Sushmita Sen as she maintains a face of rigid strength and prejudices all while Sushmita cleverly holds her character’s facade of playing by the rules, and forgiveness. The diligent work of Sushmita has ensured the audience that the title of ‘Aarya’ should not be ignored.
Through the cyclone of work and cleaning up messes caused by the men in her life, her younger brother, Sangram, acted by Ankur Bhatia, has also intrigued audiences, the impact is all-pervasive even when he is not in the frame. This is because of the variety of sides this character offers, delivered by Ankur Bhatia. The portrayal of the implicit and, frankly, deceitful Sangram was done complete justice through the words and actions of Ankur Bhatia. The staircase of regret, greed, and power-hungry Sangram, is adapted effortlessly through the Rajasthani twang Ankur maintained throughout the production. Though, he couldn’t have pulled off such a scheme without the help of Jawahar acted by Namit Das. His overpowering unreliability is seamlessly projected as he courses through suspicions of murder and theft, all while he grasps the mannerisms of a constantly intoxicated man as we slowly see him verge his way into a life perilous for his wife, Maya, a close friend of Aarya, played by Maya Sarao, and their son, Apu. Though his character is widely disliked among audiences, it does add another element of vigor to Aarya, as she consciously manages to stay one step ahead of him in his selfish journey to expose the secrets of the Sareen heir. Namit Das does an undoubtedly applauding performance as he forces his prime strengths as an actor to secure a mood of avarice in every frame.
Aarya soon obtains the illegal consignments of heroin needed for her family’s escape from the corrupt drug business, all while the livelihood of her children and her family, including herself is put at menace, even though trepidation has already taken over the youngest, Adi, after the witnessing of his father’s murder. As the show comes to its final episodes out of the nine episodes web-series, it becomes clear what she needs to do in order for her to indulge herself in security and soundness for her and her family. This sanctuary of life is not in clear sight for her, however, as it is surrounded by a weaving path of distrust and capricious family members that can never be given a blind eye, especially the spiteful father, Zorwar, that audiences quickly find as a threat to Aarya’s livelihood as she continuously revisits her past.
It’s not just drug theft the police are after at this point, ACP Khan, played by Vikas Kumar, introduces an element of diversity, as he appears to encapsulate himself in a role part of the LGBTQ+ community which also addresses another element of inclusiveness in Madhvani’s films. ACP Khan is constantly chasing Aarya Sareen’s steps as he attempts to track down a flash drive belonging to Tej Sareen, containing the inside details of the illegal business run by the family. This drives Aarya up the wall, as this flash drive is constantly posing as a threat even to the friends of the children. Choices and trust never go hand in hand in the life of Aarya Sareen, as she obtains the flash drive, despite the evidence it contains that could lead to the uncovering of the murderer behind her husband’s death.
The production of Aarya is certainly not for casual viewing as audiences wind past mature themes of drug deals, graphic murders, and vicarious relationships. The comprehensive understanding of the show centers around betrayal and the motive of revenge coursing through Aarya’s veins. Madhvani’s oasis of a thrill is a thematic factor in this nine-episode series, as we slowly hit the realization that trust within a daughter can so un-witheringly leave if the trust within the one she holds closest is forged, she can unequivocally leave a scratch. Aarya’s belief of always shedding light on the truth, in the end, reinforces the lyrics from the song acting as the motif throughout the series,
“Sach poochho to man ko jhoote lagte hain yeh saare”- Bade Achhe Lagte Hain.