BOTTOM LINE: Interesting Premise And Sushmita Sen’s Mesmerising Comeback, Bogged Down By Slow Narrative
Skin N Swear – A Few Kisses and Lovemaking Scenes, a Few Cuss Words, a Character Is Shown Snorting Drugs
|Platform:Disney Plus Hotstar VIP||Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller|
What Is the Story About?
Aarya (Sushmita Sen) and Tej Sareen (Chandrachur Singh) live a seemingly blissful life in Rajasthan, with their three kids. Tej is CEO of a pharmaceutical company, which, in reality, is a facade for an illegal opium trade he runs, along with his friend Jawahar (Namit Das) and Aarya’s brother, Sangram (Ankur Bhatia). Trouble brews in their paradise when Sangram and Jawahar flick 300 crores worth of heroin of drug kingpin Shekhawat (Manish Choudhary). Tej warns the two of retaliation by the powerful drug lord, but before they can do anything about the heroin, Tej is killed by an unknown killer. The muddled waters get even murkier when Shekhawat and Narcotics Bureau officer Khan jump into the melee to pursue their individual agendas. When things start to go very wrong for Aarya, and the safety of her children is under threat, Aarya takes the bull by the horn and enters the ring to take over the reins of the business.
The character of Aarya is one of the best fleshed out female protagonists in recent times, and Sushmita Sen sinks her teeth into the juicy role with glee. She’s done a fabulous job with the character, proving yet again – once a diva, always a diva. Watching her blazing presence on screen makes one acutely aware of the class and acting finesse Indian entertainment has been missing since long. Chandrachur Singh is a welcome surprise as Tej. His childlike joie de vivre lights up the screen – pity he’s there for such a short while. Manish Chaudhary oozes power and panache as Shekhawat, while Jayant Kripalani puts in an assured performance. Sikander Kher’s cool, calm and collected turn as Daulat is a delight to watch. He is one actor who needs to be handed better, heftier roles in the Indian entertainment space. Namit Das lends credence to the highly-strung character of Jawahar, while Ankur Bhatia should have been given more to do in the plot. He’s got an edgy screen presence, which hasn’t been leveraged as well in Aarya as it could have been. Maya Sarao is superb as Maya, and manages to catch the eye in the huge ensemble cast. Sugandha Garg is wasted in the role of Hina. She’s a great actress who deserves better roles and casting.
Aarya is a meandering thriller, with an interesting plot, and timely twists and turns. The narrative focuses predominantly on how a life of crime affects families, disrupts their calm, and causes death and destruction. As the story progresses, we learn that Aarya has seen the world of crime from close quarters, ever since she was a little girl. That is precisely the reason why she doesn’t want to expose her kids to the dark underbelly of her husband’s drug trade. But when her husband is killed, she has no other choice than to fight back to ensure her kids’ safety. What rankles is the excruciatingly long time that the story takes to get there. Tej’s killing, the grieving family, kids going astray, and finally, Aarya drawing out her claws like a wounded tigress to protect her kids at any cost — the story takes far too long to get from point A to point B.
For several episodes at a stretch, the viewer is subjected to long-drawn-out sequences of Tej’s family coming to terms with his death. The writers and directors revel in their languorous, unhurried pace and self-indulgent style of filmmaking, but for the viewers watching the series, it gets tedious and tiresome to sit through one-hour-long sequences of inconsequential storytelling (each episode is almost an hour long). The co-directors Ram Madhvani, Sandeep Modi and Vinod Rawat need to certainly think about tightening the reins on the loose bits of the narrative.
Thankfully, from the sixth episode onwards, the series picks up pace and ponderosity, and we begin to enjoy the thrills, the unraveling of secrets and tumbling out of skeletons. The basic premise of the story is interesting, but the narrative gets bogged down by too many unnecessary diversions. Arundhati’s (Aarya’s daughter) infatuation with her maasi’s husband (Alex O’Neil) is one such absolutely avoidable plot device. So is the budding romance between Veer (Aarya’s older son) and Pallavi. In fact, both the aforementioned plot diversions are downright boring, and have no consequence in the narrative whatsoever.
Another really irksome sequence is the one where Aarya honey-traps the transport official, Inderjeet Saxena. All of the above make us hit the fast forward button. These are parts that the writers could easily have done away with, leaving the plot crisper and tighter – a much-desired quality in today’s times of short attention spans and shorter patience. Other than that, writers Sandeep Shrivastava Anu Singh Choudhary have done a good job of weaving a compelling narrative.
The best portions of the series are the ones where Aarya takes charge and turns the tables on her tormentors. Her interactions with Shekhawat are brusque and bracing, which is why they are the most enjoyable. A pity, they are so few. The series could have done better with more sequences of a similar ilk. The narrative would also have been sharper, had the writing chalked out a smarter, sassier narcotics bureau. It would have made the cat and mouse chases between them and Aarya more enjoyable and worthwhile. The shenanigans of the police officers is laughably silly, made more so by the bumbling investigations of the two police officers. ACP Khan and his assistant are hoodwinked so easily by Aarya, and so many times, that we begin to wonder who is the seasoned professional and who is the novice here.
The narrative also weaves the mandatory gay character into the plot, along with the homophobic taunts — needless, in our opinion, but well, not altogether as irritating as the grieving family tropes in the initial episodes.
To sum it up, Aarya is quite gripping and eminently watchable, though it needed to ruthlessly chop off the redundant bits. Vast realms of celluloid are wasted on nonsensical story segments, before the narrative establishes the primary plot points. The series could definitely have done with a sharper screenplay and shorter episodes. A season 2 is on the cards — as indicated by the open-ended finale. While we would absolutely want to watch it when it does materialise, we would humbly advise the writers to keep it crisp and sharp the second time around.
Music and Other Departments?
The music of the series doesn’t catch attention as much as the makers would have liked. The use of the song ‘Bade Achhe Lagte Hain’ at opportune times lends poignancy to the plot. Lyrics by Swanand Kirkire are not that great – we certainly expect better from a writer of his stature. The cinematography is very good. The beautifully shot sequences by Harshvir Oberai impart opulence and grandeur, squalor and sordidness, as needed. The editing by Khushboo Raj and Abhimanyu Chaudhary is absolutely up to the mark. What stands out in Aarya is the high production values of the series. Often enough, we see production values of web series suffer owing to lack of budget or glaring negligence. Aarya, thankfully, suffers from neither of the above, making the series a good watch overall.
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Review by Binged Bureau
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