‘Aranyak’ is an eight-part series streaming on Netflix from 10th December, created by Rohan Sippy, directed by Vinay Waikul, and written by Charudutt Acharya.
This murder-mystery-thriller is set in a fictional town in Himachal Pradesh. Its storyline taps on a favorite hilly terrain myth about a half-human half animal creature.
This series stars Raveena Tandon as a highly-skilled detail-oriented, determined small-town cop accompanied by Parambrata Chatterjee at the headline of the series.
This show has it all from urban legends, superstitious beliefs, and man-eating creatures.
In ‘Aranyak,’ a presumed cannibal leopard is apparently on the loose and has a pretty specific taste as it has been targeting young women in the community.
Interestingly, the last time murders like these happened was 19 years ago when several women were found raped and brutally killed though no one was ever brought to book for the atrocities.
This specificity when it comes to picking its victims has locals thinking, maybe what they thought was a man-eating beast is simply a psychotic man who derives pleasure in massacring helpless girls and women.
The questioning is fueled further when a French teenager goes missing and is found sexually violated and hanging from a tree in the nearby forest.
A thread of suspects is lined up by the police ranging from the tourist guide seen last with the girl in a crowded bar to a thread of suspicious busybodies who frequently pop up in the series proclaiming their allegiance to former royal Kuber Manhas played by Zakir Hussain.
This show has all sorts of characters, from those well-developed throughout the story to the undercooked ones who randomly show up and disappear, resulting in bits of dense and confusing plot.
There are instances of outright hideousness in the show, for instance, when cops show up and start slapping every suspect they lay their eyes on.
However, Tandon’s Kasturi Dogra, a terrible cook meant to be a good cop, has no such compunction, and after a while, it gets tiring. The attempts to prove that she’s a bumpkin don’t do her any favors.
Then there’s the non-stop emphasis on the 19 years between the appearance of the predator: almost every single character is made to recite the phrase till it becomes a sort of suffocation.
Something pretty interesting in the show is that an item number masquerading as a wedding song, filmed as if it would appear in Bollywood movies, is given a tidbit of time in the show.
The setting of ‘Aranyak’ works pretty well for the show. The Aranya forest is deep and dense, with the turns and twists matching the narrative’s plot.
The suspense, too, keeps audiences at the edge of their seats as they keep guessing from one suspect to the other, with the big-name revelations being kept a surprise. But if someone is paying enough attention, they can actually put two and two together and guess exactly where the narrative is headed.
Some of the characters are pretty intriguing. For instance, there is a young girl named Taneesha Joshi who is forced to study really hard in order to pass her Joint Entrance Examination in short JEE but has a dark secret of her own.
An accountant named Vivek Madan happens to discover that he no longer has feelings for his wife and then an old cop Ashutosh Rana who saw the killer slip through his fingers those many years ago but is on the trail once again.
There is also the card of environmental conservation that’s played in the series with a gong for environmental concerns being sounded with accompanying message that leopards will definitely come leaping at them if people keep destroying the environment.
Raveena Tandon is a super-strong lead propelling the narrative forward. She is clear proof that beneath the flighty, fluffy girls she got a chance to play during her hay days as a sought after Bollywood star, there was always a seasoned actor.
In ‘Aranyak,’ Raveena isn’t afraid of appearing rude or uncouth alternating her temperament between her tough and soft side depending on the situations at hand, even during the instances when her unsophisticated accent slips.
However, just like the series itself, her character is inconsistent. Judging from her all glammed up face, her looks don’t resemble the homely policewoman she is supposed to portray in the series, but still, her performance is fantastic.
However, one fantastic aspect about her character is that the writers didn’t paint her as a heroine striding through the screen in slow motion and the perfect human being on the pedestal.
Instead, she is made as real as can be with plenty of flaws that she knows and understands that she possesses.
Angad Malik, on the other hand, played by Parambata Chatterjee, helps in keeping this shifting ship steady. He stays atop his past and present tracks with a series of flashbacks giving viewers a glimpse of his past, including an awful personal tragedy that molded the person he is.
He does an excellent job of refurbing the trope of the new authority figure making his entry from the outside.
He tackles his own trauma and issues professionally while trying hard to fix the vexed issues nagging the local community, especially the small towns that operate under their own unwritten guidelines.
Kasturi and Angad make a solid pair. And it feels like they will have more to do in the next part.
Themes of political manipulation, personal agendas as well as the looming threat of a murdering supernatural entity terrorizing the local town are the heart of this gripping tale.
Overall, ‘Aranyak’ is a fantastic show with plenty of twists and turns, excellent cinematography, sleek direction and an ominous score that perfectly complements this series.
‘Aranyak’ is a fantastic series to watch that will keep audiences engaged throughout the eight episodes. In fact, it is one of those shows that can easily convert someone into a couch potato as one finds themselves clicking the next one, an episode comes to an end.