Hotstar Specials Aarya has all the ingredients of a gripping thriller – a drug baron, narcotrafficking, a family that helplessly gets sucked into the world of crime. And then, just when the viewer is getting invested in the affairs of the Sareen family, the series – based on Dutch drama Penoza – unleashes Aarya, the eponymous character played by Sushmita Sen.
Created by Ram Madhvani, the show marks Sushmita’s debut in the OTT space, and the former Miss Universe captures your attention right from the first scene. As Aarya, the eldest of the Sareen clan, she is an obedient daughter, a doting wife to Tej (played by another favourite Chandrachur Singh), a confidante to her siblings, but more importantly, a fiercely protective mother to her three kids, Veer, Aaru, and Adi.
Motherhood and its many shades are clearly the undercurrent theme of the whole narrative. So much so, that Aarya’s brutish side is almost absent in the first few episodes of the show. It is as if she is preparing — just like Daulat, who prophetically asks her to be the lioness that she is — and the audience is waiting for her to bare her teeth for an ominous showdown. A sense of which looms large throughout the series.
So, when the time comes, Aarya doesn’t fall short on conviction to take over her family’s illegal drug’s business. And Sushmita delivers a performance that ensures her comeback is memorable, hard-hitting, and leaves you wanting for more.
What makes Aarya a SPECIAL for cine-lovers?
The series is so much more than what the trailer will have you believe.
Of course, the drug trafficking, the illegal business, a relentless cop who is after exposing the criminal network in operation, and the complicated exchanges between the Sareens, the police, and the villainous Shekawat (a quick shout out to the brilliant Manish Choudhary) are the prominent pillars on which the narrative rests, but the crux of the story is somewhere else.
At its heart, the show is as much about “family” as it is about “crime.”
“As you saw in Neerja also, I am interested in relationships,” series co-creator, Ram told a news site. The ad filmmaker — who earlier worked on Let’s Talk (in 2002), the critically acclaimed Neerja (2016), and now Aarya (2020) – explained that this was his approach because he wanted the “characters to feel like real people and bring in the truth”.
“The scene should not appear like it is something happening only between “action” and “cut”. It should feel like the characters and their lives also exist before and after,” he was quoted.
In this, Ram succeeds and how! With his vision guiding the direction, writers Sandeep Shrivastava and Anu Singh Choudhary’s tightly-packed script handling the narrative, and show lead Sushmita anchoring the scenes with her relaxed and measured performance, the story takes off. As a viewer, you’re made to empathise with Aarya as she prepares to take charge of the very business she wanted to leave.
Why is it extra-special for fans of Sushmita Sen?
For one, Aarya marks Sushmita’s comeback into mainstream entertainment after almost 10 years. The actor, who made her foray into Indian cinema after being crowned Miss Universe at the age of 18, was last seen in the Hindi-language comedy No Problem in 2010. Although she did a Bengali film called Nirbaak in 2015, the actor has not appeared in any Bollywood project ever since.
A reason she attributes to the lack of meaningful projects or acting opportunities.
"For me, it was very simple, I had started getting the kind of work that I was just doing for the sake of it to stay in the business of making movies,” the actor told a news agency adding, “I think that is a criminal waste of your life, so I chose otherwise and I did better things with my time.”
So, when a role as riveting as Aarya presented itself, it isn’t surprising that the actor leapt at the opportunity, delivering a superb performance. Aarya represents Sushmita 2.0 – far more mature, straddling its way without any inhibition or doubt.
And why not. Between 2010 and now, Sushmita has been to the hell and back, struggling and battling a severe health crisis. The actor was diagnosed with the Addison’s disease – an autoimmune condition – in September 2014.
“I had to take a medicine called hydrocortisone, which is a steroid, every eight hours to stay alive because my body no longer made that," Sushmita had revealed in an interview.
In her own words, it was a “traumatic” experience. And while it kept her from the public eye for a few years, it didn’t break her spirit. If anything, it has fortified her will and determination to come back with a renewed strength.
Something that has not missed our attention in her portrayal of Aarya.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)