Director: Vinay Waikul
Cast: Raveena Tandon, Parambrata Chatterjee, Ashutosh Rana, Zakir Hussain, Meghna Malik
Raveena Tandon and Parambrata Chatterjee lead a large cast in Vinay Waikul’s Netflix series, Aranyak, out today in the small town of Sironah, infested by wild animals and wilder men. Critics only got six out of eight episodes, and I found the script way too clunky and busy – and can be confusing to a viewer.
Reportedly Raveena’s first television series, she plays Inspector Kasturi Dogra, with a husband and two children. When the story begins, she is about to take a long sabbatical and hand over the leadership to Angad Mallik, played with considerable discomfort by Parambrata. I have no idea why he should look so gloomy and carry on episode after episode with just one single expression: unsmiling and stiff.
When Sironah comes up with his own story of grisly murders of girls, Angad has to deal with his own dark baggage after losing his infant son at a school concert – a horrific incident that separates him from his wife.
Sironah people believe the murders are the handiwork of a supernatural being, half human and half leopard, a story Angad refuses to believe. But there are players like Kasturi’s father-in-law, retired chief of police, Mahadev Dogra (with a touch of excellence played by Ashutosh Rana).
Interestingly, there hasn’t been a bloody incident like this in 19 years, and the latest happens when Kasturi is about to resign. She is angry and disappointed that a big case must come when she is ready to leave. Nothing major had happened in all the years she had been in charge of the police station, and to Angad’s dismay, she begins to intervene.
And what is this case about? A French girl is murdered and hanged from a tree. Her mother is inconsolable. Their idyllic getaway in the city nestled in the Himalayas has turned dark and demonic, as the murder is blamed on the man-leopard.
The crowd on the canvas has several other players such as minister Jagadamba Dhumal (Meghna Malik) and politician Manhas (Zakir Hussain), who are looking to secure a Rajya Sabha seat and hope his future son-in-law Ravi Prashar (Indraneil Sengupta wasted in an insignificant role) in politics. And then there are some young guys like Hari, Gagan and Kanti, each of whom weaves his own story into this tangled maze.
Aranyak, which literally means ‘of the forest’, is also the title of a celebrated Bengali novel written by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay between 1937 and 1939. It came after his long and arduous research in the remote areas of Bhagalpur and Purnea, in which he talks on the relationship between urban and jungle life. In fact, the Netflix series has a series where Kasturi stops Mahadev from shooting a panther that has invaded their territory and terrified the life of her daughter, Nutan. Furthermore, I don’t think there is any connection between the literary work and the TV series.
Aranyak fits into the thriller genre but is too complex to impress, and both Raveena and Parambrata disappoint, especially him, as I know he can be compelling.
Aranyak is ok if you have nothing better to do.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator, and film critic who has covered major film festivals such as Cannes, Venice, and Tokyo.)
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