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OTT Review: Aranyak

In a clear nod to the Nordic and British crime genres, Indian serial Aranyak tries to delve into mysterious goings-on (and murders) in a sleepy — and woody — hill station in the format of a police procedural



by

Sushmita Bose

Published: Thu 20 Jan 2022, 11:41 PM

This one has had its share of bouquets and brickbats: while certain critics heaped praises on Aranyak for its unusual break of formula and its elegiac tone, many have lambasted it, calling it downright silly. My immediate impression about the serial — which records a sort of comeback for yesterday’s oomph girl Raveena Tandon — was that it borrows heavily from European crime thrillers (and by Europe, I am also referring to the British catchment, never mind Brexit) in its distinct setting: the popularisation of a small-town hemmed in by woods where bodies pile up.

The male protagonist Angad Malik (played by Bengali actor Parambrata Chattopadhyay) gets a limited-period posting as an SHO at a police station in a sleepy hill station called Sironah, somewhere in north India. He comes — like they all do, the detectives in Nordic/British thrillers — with a baggage. He’s also a misfit because he hails from the city, and considered too polished. The reason why he’s snagged the posting is because the current SHO Kasturi Dogra (Raveena Tandon) is taking a sabbatical to spend time with family: a sulky husband she has outgrown, two children (including a hormonal teenage daughter) and father-in-law Mahadev Dogra (played by Ashutosh Rana, probably the tour de force of Aranyak), who used to be a police officer himself.

On the first day of the handover, an eerie crime is committed. A French (tourist) girl is first reported missing and then her body is discovered in the forest, mauled — from the looks of it — by an animal. This promptly sets off a “legend” from the past when the bodies of a few women were recovered in a similar state decades ago, at a time when Mahadev was in the police force, and the town people had started talking about sightings of a half-man half-beast who roamed the woods and killed women (Mahadev is a firm believer in the spectre, who, he points out, is out to kill at times when the moon is in conjunction with cosmic alignments).

The two lead characters — two, because Kasturi has predictably cut short her leave of absence since she needs to ‘prove’ herself — of course don’t believe in the hocus pocus and begin an investigation.

Along the way, the trail (of the murder, not the forest) gets connected to a couple of local politicians who are busy at a game of one-upmanship. Also involved — in some way — are people closer home (friends and family, and basically all the folks who live in picturesque Sironah). Soon, Angad’s past comes back to haunt him with the prospect of it being linked to the present happenings.

The cinematography is quite breathtaking. The camera looks top-down at roads that go past a flurry of forests — and you’ll be forgiven for believing this is A Confession or The Forest or The Woods — and the cop cars take the curvy trail to make it all seem even more twisted.

The makers try to imbue a sense of the supernatural into Aranyak — not shabbily I thought. Raveena is fairly compelling in a de-glam role as is Parambrata, and the hint of their chemistry is handled competently and maturedly.

The denouement, I thought, was a complete let-down: both the revelation of the killer (you’re bound to go, “What? Really?”) and the almost-childish events that surround the revelation. Which all adds up to the main problem with the serial: in the end, it’s just too contrived, and you can’t help feeling that with a promising start, it deserved a better follow-through.

sushmita@khaleejtimes.com


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