Web Review: Aranyak: Convoluted, layered show that ends on cliffhanger

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Parambhrata Chatterjee and Raveena Tandon play cops who join forces in Aranyak. Photo: Trailer Grab

The first episode itself hints at the layers and convolutions to come. Angad Malik (Parambhrata Chattopadhyay) has taken over as top cop in Sironah in Himachal Pradesh, a fictional town in which a foreign tourist, Aimee (Anna Ador) has gone missing. The cop who he will replace is the domestically clumsy, rather behind-the-times and seemingly languid Kasturi Dogra (Raveena Tandon).

Kasturi’s teenage daughter Nutan (Taneesha Joshi) is already in love with the equally young Bunty (Wishveash Sharkholi) and sends him her hot videos! Kasturi resents Angad’s steely determination and lack of ‘respect’ for local biggies. Also, all is not well on her home front, with trouble brewing between hubby (Vivek Madaan) and her. However, she has deep affection for her father-in-law, a retired but strangely still-active ex-policeman Mahadev (Ashutosh Rana).

And that’s where a local 19 year-old legend comes in—that there is a leopard man hidden in the jungles who rapes and kills women on full-moon night. Mahadev has been “clawed” by him, escaped alive in that period, but has never seen his face.

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Then there is the politician Manhas (Zakir Hussain) with his henchman Chhotu (Faiz Khan) and his right hand Mishra (Sachin Kathuria). Manhas wants to reclaim some of the forest to build a resort. The local DC (I presume that means District Collector, played by Lalit Parimoo) and politician Jagdamba (Meghna Malik) have to be convinced about this. Jagdamba, whose son Kanti (Tejaswi Dev Chaudhary) is a rebel, junkie and in jail for rape, also has a loyal Man Friday in Nandan (Milind Shinde).

When the tourist Julie Baptise (Breshna Khan), obviously addicted to drugs, comes in to lodge a complaint about the missing Aimee, Angad treats her like any agonized mother but Kasturi is in favor of throwing her into the lockup. However, when Aimee is found hanging from a tree in the jungle with claw marks on her neck, and it is found that Aimee was raped before she was murdered, the legend’s local status grows, especially as there was a lunar eclipse on that day!

Angad too has a back story, where his son Montoo (Saurav Khurana) was kidnapped and later declared dead by his abductor. This has led to his divorce and built up his hatred for criminals and his sympathy for parents.

The story moves between all these characters and (many) more, and while the first three episodes crawl, there is grip from the fourth episode. The most gripping is clearly the seventh one, while the last one is too frenetic, a tad “filmi” and ultimately leaves two threads open in the usual cliffhanger. Is Angad dead? Is his son alive after so many years? What has happened to Jagdamba, who was viciously attacked, and to Manhas and his family, comprising son-in-law Ravi Parashar (Indroneil Sengupta) and daughter Nilima (Priyanka Setia)?

As a book, Aranyak (which translates as a denizen of the forest or the aranya) would have made for—minus the cliffhanger, of course—a gripping whodunit. As an audiovisual experience, however, it leaves us with mixed feelings. There is lack of consistency in the pace, though in the final outcome, all the threads come together well.

The small-town hill-resort ethos and atmosphere have been captured well, though there are some loose ends and flaws that I will not share for those keen on watching the show. The red herrings are many and their actual depiction as sequences not only unnecessarily add to the narrative length but even create some restiveness.

The performances are of high order, especially those of Parambhrata Chattopadhyay as Angad, the man who has a past that suddenly barges into his present, and Raveena Tandon, who is excellent come action sequences or family situations. But she scores highest when she has her spats with Angad.

Vivek Madaan as her husband Hari is especially impressive, and the youngsters Taneesha Joshi, Vishweash Sharkholi, Pratyaksh Rajbhatt as Gagan and Tejaswi Dev Chaudhary as Kanti all score very high. Special mentions must also be made of Faiz Khan as Chhotu and of Ajeet Singh Palawat as Sundar. There! Didn’t I say that there are so many characters, some having little footage but making a great mark.

Aranyak is a good watch, but could have made a great mark too with some care. This story could have been as tight as the hangman’s noose that plays such a key part in the tale.

Rating: *** of 5

Netflix presents Roy Kapur Films’ and R.S. Entertainment’s present Aranyak. Produced by: Siddharth Roy Kapur, Ramesh & Rohan Sippy Directed by: Vinay Waikul Written by: Charudutt Acharya & Rohan Sippy Music: Ketan Sodha

Starring: Raveena Tandon, Parambhrata Chattopadhyay, Zakir Hussain, Ashutosh Rana, Taneesha Joshi, Indroneil Sengupta, Vishweas Sharkholi, Meghna Malik, Milind Shinde, Tejaswi Dev Chaudhary & others

 

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