Aranyak review: Raveena Tandon’s OTT debut is impressive

Written By: Subhash K Jha WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Dec 12, 2021, 03:33 PM(IST)

Raveena Tandon Photograph:( Twitter )

Story highlights

Raveena Tandon's scrubbed face, suspicious eyes and tense alert body language constantly convey that Kasturi Dogra knows more than she is willing to divulge.

Starring Raveena Tandon, Parambrata Chatterjee, Ashutosh Rana,  Meghna  Malik, Zakir Hussain

Directed by Vinay Waikul

Streaming on: Netflix

Rating: ***

No comparison intended. But in Satyajit Ray’s classic  Aranyer Din Ratri the forest held so much mystery and intrigue,  it was almost like exploring a universe of foliage in search of the true meaning of life.

The forest in Aranyak is also crammed with mysteries, as a series of murders occur in the thick of the forest. The gruesome goings-on in the greenery are attributed to a beast called the nar-tendua, half-man half-beast, full monster.

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So is the nar-tendua responsible for the multiple killings? Or is a  deadly human impersonating the beast-man's bestial bloodshed technique?  The answer to that is of course obvious. Aranyak milks the mystery of the forest. But it doesn’t go deep enough.  The director  Vinay Waikul, relatively new to the craft,  stops short of exploring the wide mysterious landscape.

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Most of the tense narrative is confined to the indoors with the actors captured in clenched sweaty close-ups as they open up old wounds that never healed.

The series opens with the brutal murder of a French tourist Julie’s daughter Amy. Julie’s 'French' accents prove as elusive as  the murderer, slipping in and out at will. Raveena Tandon’s pahaadi accent is more reliable. She plays  a hard-nosed gritty cop on the verge of taking a year-long sabbatical from her official duty when the serial killer strikes. Her role has echoes of  Mita Vashisht in the far-superior series 'Your Honor'.

Ashutosh

Raveena in her OTT debut is impressively transformed. Her scrubbed face, suspicious eyes and tense alert body language constantly convey that Kasturi Dogra knows more than she is willing to divulge.

Kasturi’s partner in crime is the ever-dependable  Parambrata Chatterjee. Does he ever give an inept performance? As  Angad Malik, the cop who initially comes to take over  Kasturi’s job but soon makes her his chief accomplice in crimebusting, Parambrata gives  Raveena just the right queues.

Sadly the plot lets them down at all the crucial points. Where there should have been high drama, there is a sense of anti-climax. The denouement is specially disappointing. Indian whodunits think zeroing in on the most unlikely suspect is the best methodology to wrap up a  suspense drama. In truth, the lies and redherrings are a huge distraction to a  credible conclusion to the whodunit.

The supporting actors hardly get a  chance to emerge from the thick foliage. Ashutosh Rana, Meghna Malik and Zakir Hussain are actors who never let the plot down even if the plot chooses to let them down. They grapple valiantly but in vain with the improbabilities in the plot. The young cast comprises of characters who are either in serious trouble or looking for it.

There are many gaping wounds and open cesspits in this messy serial on serial killer on the prowl. What works is the work relationship between Tandon and Chatterjee. Tandon’s effort to be a good mother and a good wife(the latter includes buying sexy lingerie, a desperate move that prompts a sarcastic comment from her husband on  “supermom,  masterchef and  Sunny Leone”) while being a conscientious cop are well conveyed.

The series could have gone for the jugular—like the killer does—but instead choose to just prod some secondary veins.

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