Aranyak REVIEW: Raveena Tandon’s debut OTT show will end your search for a gripping thriller in India

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Director: Vinay Waikul

Cast: Raveena Tandon, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Meghna Malik, Ashutosh Rana, Zakir Hussain, Vivek Madaan, Taneesha Joshi

Bollywood Bubble Rating: 3.5

Aranyak, Aranyak review, raveena tandon

As a child, our view of ‘jungles’ is defined by the ‘Jungle Book’ or ‘Tarzan’. We all wanted to be Mowgli, only to grow up and get hit by reality. The jungle can be enchanting yet mysterious, it can lure you into finding solace in danger or make you surrender to its vastness. Hence, a murder mystery, the cannabis, the hills and the jungle seems to be perfect ingredients for a successful thriller, isn’t it? Yet, time and again we have seen that despite having access to all, makers fail to produce an engaging story. Not with Aranyak. As Raveena Tandon and Parambrata Chattopadhyay take lead, Aranyak takes us through the wonders of the jungle, the myths and the mystical stories around it, as a murder mystery unfolds across 8 episodes.

Director Vinay Waikul has set his thriller in Sirohaa, a small town in North India, where folktales of ‘leopard-man’ have been popular. Leopard-man is believed to be in half leopard, half-man form who sucks blood, rapes and murders girls, every lunar eclipse. The folktales seems to have returned to Sirohaa after 20 years as another murder is reported, of a girl (Ambie), who was raped and hanged to a tree. What happened on the night of 12th November? Several suspects, each having a story of its own. Of course, any sane person would disregard the theory and would look for the active serial killer on the loose, just like Kasturi Dogra (Raveena Tandon) and Angad (Parambrata Chattopadhyay). However, Mahadev Dogra (Ashutosh Rana), ex-SHO of the town invariably believes and reiterates that ‘Leopard-man’ has returned.

Kasturi is the SHO of the town who takes a voluntary break for a year to focus on her family life. She is a devoted policewoman who fell in love (platonic, teacher-student love) with her father-in-law before her husband. As she was all set to sideline her professional commitment to family, she finds herself throwing away the biggest case of her career towards the new SHO, Angad. Torn between the two, she deliberates herself to rejoin the Force and actively participate in the hunt under Angad’s leadership. Initially, at loggerheads, the two somehow seem to have found a synergy to collaborate as they discover there is some insider behind all of this, trying to protect the real culprit.

Be it Angad, Kasturi or even Mahadev, they are all very layered and complicated, and that is what keeps us invested in their characters. There is so much more than what meets the eyes.

 

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What I find interesting is the way many stories are running parallel yet in combination with the murder mystery. This keeps you guessing and on the edge throughout. Who seems like a victim at one point, turns out to be a suspect and this cycle is never-ending. This is the biggest strength of Aranyak. We have a rape convict out on parole as one of the many suspects, along with a politician’s son-in-law, the DC of the town, aspiring students, Kasturi’s husband, and so on! The guess game is too strong till the very end.

Who is behind all this and why? Is it to protect the drug business or disrupt tourism, or to create some political pressure! The elements used to create an impactful and powerful story as Aranyak is definitely worth the applause. What works for me is also the pace, it is fast and moving. It doesn’t let you feel at rest or stagnant. One loose end and you will miss a major clue! Aranyak has all the qualities to be a binge-watch! I know, I couldn’t stop despite a hectic day!

The cinematography works hand-in-gloves, as it should, with the tone of the show. It is dark, compelling and engaging. There is a sense of mystery created through the cinematic lenses. The background score, the visuals and the screenplay work best for me. Honestly, in the first watch, I was too engrossed in guessing the so-called ‘leopard-man’ to focus on the loopholes.

Raveena Tandon also makes her debut with Aranyak and honestly, it is by far the best OTT debut for any Bollywood star. She is fierce, vulnerable and a total package as Kasturi. She is the anchor to the show. She is the hero. She is aspirational and committed and honestly, it was just so good to see Raveena in action. Parambrata is equally good. He brings in a sense of dual view to Sirohaa and it is difficult to not notice how organic and natural the actor is onscreen. He is Mike to Harvey (Suits reference) in Aranyak. Their camaraderie and equation seems seamless onscreen.

Ashutosh Rana is excellent as Mahadev. He is mysterious in his own ways and it is just a pleasure to watch him perform onscreen. He steals every frame he is a part of. Zakir Hussain, Meghna Malik, again fabulous supporting cast. Every character is important to the story, and add value to the entire mystery.

The folktales amalgamated with the dangerous reality of the hills, Aranyak makes for a binge-watch!

I haven’t watched a good thriller in India for a long time now. Aranyak ends my search for sure. Definitely watch it for not one but many reasons!

PS: Let’s put it straight, despite the story outline being similar to that of Candy (Richa Chaddha and Ronit Roy starrer), the story and the treatment is totally different.

Also Read: EXCLUSIVE: Raveena Tandon on balancing personal and professional lives: There were times when it was challenging