Aranyak review: In 1990s Hindi cinema, there weren’t nearly enough female officers to go around. You did, however, observe the wives of cops berating or encouraging their husbands to do better. In the cult masterpiece School, Raveena Tandon played one (1999). As a result of his duty-obsessed nature, Manoj Bajpayee’s character is a constant threat to his family. That their pain is accepted as a fact. On her deathbed, his wife tells him, “We love you, that’s why we tolerate you.”
The fact that Raveena’s character’s first gesture in Aranyak, her first big cop job, is towards home is a little weird to me. When it comes to the Netflix series, Kasturi Dogra is a middle-aged station officer in Sironah, a fictional hill village. Kasturi has been in this position for a long time with only mediocre results. Ambitious in the sense of “I will root out crime for good” or “I want to kick ass and land one major murder mystery” sort of way. However, she is taking a leave of absence when she is ultimately assigned to one of these cases. Why is this happening? Family.
Charudutt Acharya and Vinay Waikul put together a competent first episode for Aranyak, helmed by Waikul. A few characters are introduced, and murder is discovered, but that’s pretty much it. Zakir Hussain, Meghna Malik, their kids, and children are all taught. A 19-year-old woman called Amiee Baptiste died (Anastasiya Homolka). New SHO, Angad (Parambrata Chatterjee), is approached by the girl’s mother, who explains that she and her boyfriend are missing. Unconvinced by Kasturi, who is merely there to clean out her belongings. After calling out “Charsi, jhooti,” she swats the woman in the face. The tourism bids have been scuppered.
To solve the crime, Kasturi and Angad work together. After taking a year off from work to spend time with her children (and clean up her marriage). She begins following her substitute around like a hound dog. This equation is similar to Olivia Coleman and David Tenants in the Broadchurch television series. Like Coleman’s persona in that he’s a local, Kasturi is less sensitive and resourceful. Instead of treating Sironah as a place she has worked and lived in for years, she treats it like a playground. As a result, her family life appears choreographed rather than lived. Kasturi’s husband, Hari (Vivek Daman), is the sneering, jealous type. In addition, what would you call her smokin’ dad (Ashutosh Rana) in the family? Mahadev, of course.
The visual style of Aranyak is typical of a mountain thriller; by the third or fourth episode, I’d had enough of cars swerving through the night. Bodies hanging from trees, murky “resort project,” and the mythical “leopard-man” lurking in the woods are just some of the absurdities that make up the plot. When the cops finally come, a suspect manages to slip out of the window. The majority of our leaders’ time is spent discussing and strategizing with one other. Exposition is used by even better thrillers, but not in the way that Aranyak does. Angad notices something weird, and Kasturi responds, “Haan, ho Sakta hai…” long after the audience has reached that conclusion.
When Parambrata Chatterjee is requested to do something, he does it calmly and efficiently. For Raveena, he’s an unusual vehicle because Kasturi, in his many appearances, tends to feel like a sidekick. Her complicated family life and muted ambitions slip into and out of view. Even though Raveena has consistently performed better in more prominent roles, Aranyak overlooks her. “Tough cop,” “apologetic mother,” and “torn wife” are just a few of the songs that make up the medley. Kasturi slips on Angad’s arm, then recovers and warns him off, but any tenderness is nipped in the bud.
Eventually, the underlying mystery gets too muddled to care about. Indian thrillers used to be created on the cheap in India. They were nimble, wacky, and incredibly self-aware in their approach. Everything has altered since the introduction of streaming. Aranyak is a show whose goal is to be a high-profile one. To their detriment, they neglect to have some fun along the way.