Tag Archives: Raveena Tandon

Series Review: Aranyak (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Aranyak on Netflix

Aranyak is Netflix India’s answer to Twin Peaks. With a compelling story and right-sized episodes, the supernatural (or is it?) murder mystery is made to be binged.

Aranyak takes place in the perpetually overcast fictional mountain town of Sironah, surrounded by a dense forest. Police officer Angad Malik (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) arrives to take over duties from Kasturi Dogra (Raveena Tandon), who’s taking a leave of absence from the force to deal with family issues.

On the day Angad arrives, a French tourist named Julie (Breshna Khan) reports her teenage daughter Aimee (Anna Ador) missing. Angad and Kasturi bicker over who should lead the case until Aimee’s body is found hanged in a tree. The cops agree to work together, putting Kasturi’s leave on hold.

Aimee’s death hits Sironah hard because of its similarities to a series of murders 19 years earlier that left over a dozen young women dead and the residents of the town emotionally scarred — none more so than Kasturi’s father-in-law Mahadev (Ashutosh Rana). He led the investigation into the murders but was unable to find the killer known as the “leopard man.”

The leopard man is a figure of local myth: a murderous beast and also the steward of a crop of “mystery mushrooms” that cure disease, but at a grievous cost to those who consume them. Whether the killer from 19 years ago was a man or a monster remains up for debate in Sironah.

One curious fact about the new crime is that all the rich and politically-connected residents in town seem to know that something bad happened to Aimee before the police do. Local politician Jagdamba (Meghna Malik) and sketchy rich guy Kuber Manhas (Zakir Hussain) try to leverage that information to their advantage.

There are many more characters and possible suspects. The story — written by Rohan Sippy and Charudutt Acharya — does a nice job of keeping all of them somehow connected to the crimes of the present or past. Each of the series’ eight episodes runs about 40 minutes, giving enough time to flesh out characters and their motivations without getting bogged down in backstory.

The runtime gives enough space to deal with the themes that Aranyak shares with Twin Peaks: collective trauma, whether evil exists as an independent entity or whether it’s simply individual moral corruption, and how “good” people reckon with this evil in their midst.

One of the more interesting characters is the politician Jagdamba. Her position is in jeopardy because her young adult son Kanti (Tejaswi Dev Chaudhary) was previously convicted of rape. She wants to protect him, but she also believes that he committed the current crime and fears that he might do it again. She’s concerned not just because he’s a political liability, but because she doesn’t want him to hurt anyone else — yet she’s not sure how to stop him. She loves her son, but he might be irredeemable.

This subplot fits with the show’s focus on the dangers faced by women, be it rape, murder, roofies, or cyberstalking. The stakes are raised for Kasturi because she has a daughter, Nutan (Tanseesha Joshi), who is the same age as Aimee. One of the commonalities between Aimee’s death and the murders from 19 years ago is that the police weren’t able to prevent any of them, only respond to them after the fact.

Aranyak has a few glaring flaws. Kasturi does stupid things that put people in danger, and she’s never heard of the jugular vein. Action scenes in the final episode defy the laws of space-time. The finale’s closing shot is sincerely crazy. The whole reason I watched the show was because Shah Shahid of the Split Screen Podcast warned me that the show’s final seconds were nuts, and he was right.

That said, the story build-up to that point is solid enough to make time invested in Aranyak worthwhile. Consistently good performances help, too, with special acknowledgement of Joshi as Nutan and Wishveash Sharkholi as Bunty, her boyfriend. Though the story feels complete as is, I’m very curious to see where Season 2 would go, based on the finale’s closing seconds.


Opening September 21: Heroine

September 21, 2012, marks the opening of Heroine in four Chicago area theaters. Kareena Kapoor plays a superstar actress whose career is in decline. (Hopefully, she won’t resort to black magic, as Bipasha Basu did recently in Raaz 3.)

Heroine opens on Friday at the Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.

All four of the above theaters are carrying over last weekend’s new release, Barfi!, as is the AMC River East 21 in Chicago. The film earned a very impressive $1,061,713 in its first weekend in U.S. theaters.

The South Barrington 30 also carries over Ek Tha Tiger for a sixth week.

Other Indian movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Husbands in Goa (Malayalam), Vennela 1 1/2 (Telugu), and Life Is Beautiful (Telugu), which is also showing at the River East 21.

Plenty of other Indian and South Asian films can be found at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival, which runs now through Sunday, September 23. The event closes with the world premiere of Shobhna’s Seven Nights. The film’s star, Raveena Tandon, will be on hand for a Q & A session following the film’s premiere.

Movie Review: Bbuddah…Hoga Terra Baap (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Amitabh Bachchan built his reputation as an action star in the ’70s, the types of characters he played earning him the nickname the “Angry Young Man.” Now in his late-sixties, Bbuddah…Hoga Terra Baap presents Bachchan as the angry old man.

Bachchan plays Vijju, an assassin hired by the mafia to murder Karan (Sonu Sood), a police chief determined to rid Mumbai of organized crime. In between two failed attempts on Karan’s life, Vijju befriends a young woman named Amrita (Charmy Kaur), best friend of Karan’s beloved, Tanya (Sonal Chauhan). Vijju humiliates Karan publicly for his mistreatment of Tanya. This can’t be the behavior of a seasoned assassin, can it?

From the second Vijju appears onscreen, it’s clear that this is Bachchan’s movie. He saunters through a busy airport, clad in a white suit with a colorful scarf wrapped around his neck. Vijju threatens a customs agent who draws attention to his age in front of a group of pretty girls. The agent gets off more lightly than anyone else in the movie who dares call Vijju buddah (“old man”).

The filmmakers go so far as to include a thank you note to Bachchan at the end of the film, as if appearing was a favor on Bachchan’s part, and not just another acting job.

Such narrow focus leaves the characters surrounding Bachchan woefully underdeveloped, and none of them makes even a hint of emotional progress as the story develops. Amrita is annoying, and Tanya is pouty and childish. Chauhan’s beauty aside, there’s nothing appealing about Tanya as a romantic lead.

Karan is problematic in that he’s supposed to be one of the good guys, and yet he’s as brutal as the gangsters he wants to drive from the city. He tortures prisoners, stalks Tanya and doesn’t hesitate to put innocent citizens in harm’s way for the sake of a shootout.

There’s an irritating sideplot involving Amrita’s mother, Kamini (Raveena Tandon), who was once in love with Vijju. It’s introduced abruptly, adds nothing to the story and is dropped without resolution.

Bachchan himself is as reliable as ever. He’s exciting to watch during the action scenes, and clever and charming the rest of the time. It’s too bad the rest of the film doesn’t live up to his compelling performance. Rather than creating a film specifically to pay tribute to Bachchan, director Puri Jagannadh would’ve been better off writing a solid movie, casting the superstar and letting him elevate it the way he so often does.