There is little to be said for the leading ladies of yesteryear who are returning to reclaim their place in today’s scenario of relative freedom offered by streaming platforms. A stubborn cop from a small town, Raveena Tandon is the focus of Aranyak, an eight-part series set in the fictional city of Himachal Pradesh that conveys a popular myth about hilly terrain: half man, half beast. His company skillfully makes a cop, played by Parambra Chatterjee, who follows in his footsteps.
An urban legend. Superstition. Moon cycle.
Predators, humans and animals. Nar-Leopard is nearby, busy targeting innocent young women. The last time this happened at Sirona was 19 years ago. Now the killer is back. Is someone pretending to be an animal? Who is responsible for the rape and murder of a French teenager.
Who was found hanging from a tall tree in a forest near the city? Is it the son of local politician Jagdamba (Megna Malik) already serving a prison sentence for rape? Or one of the few shady boys who, because of his loyalty to former King Kuber Manhas (Zakir Hussein), shows up with a stubborn daughter (Priyanka Setia) and stocky daughter-in-law (Indraneil Sengupta) and leaves the show?
There is no shortage of suspects and diversions in this mysterious murder thriller from Rohan Sipi. Directed by Vinay Waikul and written by Charutut Acharya. And all sorts of characters – some with sufficient depth, others a little less mature. It keeps popping up as the game progresses. Abundance problems make up part of a busy and confusing schedule.
There are places of absolute stupidity: even the most outspoken cop. That doesn’t hit a suspect as soon as they see him. But Kasturi Dogra of Tandon, a lousy cook who must be a good cop. Which has no such affection and tries after a while. Trying to prove his insanity was to his detriment.
Add the constant emphasis on the “19 years” between predatory appearances. Almost every character is forced to repeat a sentence until it comes out of our ears. And oh, item numbers disguised as wedding songs. Which is filmed in Bollywood are getting a bit of time.
What works are the settings? As well as the best tension:
The big reveal comes as a surprise, but if you keep your eyes open, you can start to see where it all leads. Location is everything – the “Aranyak” (forest) is deep and dark, the paths are winding, the curves fit the plot. Some of the basic characters are really interesting: a young girl (Tanisha Joshi).
Who is forced to study hard to solve JEE has an uncomfortable secret. An accountless and jobless man (Vivek Madan) discovers that he has fallen in love with his wife. An old cop (Ashutosh Rana) who saw a predator pass him years ago smells it again. The environmental gong has sounded: If we continue to destroy the environment, the leopard will pounce on us, won’t it? But I should play this card a little brighter.
Raveena Tandon reminds us that there is always one actor among the flying. The hairy girls who had to act in his prime in Bollywood most of the time. He’s not afraid to come across as rough and brusque and can get louder and softer if the opportunity arises, even as his subtle accent fades.
But like the whole series itself, her character is inconsistent: at rest and with her glamorous face, she looks as far cry from the housewife she should be. However, here he gets a chance to be a full-fledged hero, not just a song-and-dance cypher. One of the best parts of the series is that she doesn’t turn into a “heroine” or a “lady” walking around playfully: she’s a woman with flaws, and she knows it.
The balancing factor here is Parambra Chatterjee’s, Angad Malik:
Anyone who keeps abreast of the past and the present recounts first in retrospect, including grisly personal tragedies that always feel fictional.
He did well in refreshing the image of a new authority from the outside, taking care of his problems and at the same time trying to solve the unpleasant problems of the locals, especially in small towns with their own unwritten rules. Kasturi and Angad are a solid couple. And it looks like they will have more work to do next time.