AASHRAM – Season 1 [Part 1] (2020)

Bobby Deol in a still from Aashram
  • Release Date: 28/08/2020
  • Cast: Bobby Deol, Aaditi Pohankar, Tushar Pandey, Darshan Kumaar, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Anupriya Goenka
  • Director: Prakash Jha

Spirited performances, interesting story, and authoritative direction make Aashram an entertaining and engrossing watch

Aashram chronicles the journey of Baba Nirala Kashipur Wale (Bobby Deol), a godman-esc character evidently modeled on Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insaan of Sirsa. He is shown living in a palatial Aashram that also houses a college, a sports complex, an old age home, a super specialty hospital (that caters to the downtrodden for free), and a plethora of other establishments. Baba Nirala maintains his own private army for the protection of his massive Aashram and his own self. He has an incredibly large following of people which includes people from all corners of the state that ensures that he has an influence on 20 electoral seats of the region. This makes the baba a kingmaker from time to time and someone who is highly sought after by both the ruling party and the opposition. Baba Nirala takes it upon himself to help people of all castes but is particularly interested to help the people of the lower castes who are a perennially mistreated lot. One such good turn sets about a chain of events that would influence the baba in the very near future.

Pammi (Aditi Pohankar), a budding wrestler, and her brother Satti (Tushar Pandey) face gross atrocities at the hands of the upper castes. As luck would have it, Baba Nirala comes to their rescue and saves Satti’s life just in time. Pammi is shocked and crestfallen by the lack of power that she has on her own destiny and existence. She feels that her caste has lamented her to a life of torture, insult, and injustice.  At the same time, she is also mighty impressed by the Baba who not only saves her brother’s life but also ensures that Pammi, her brother, and their family get their due dignity back. She starts visiting the Aashram and is gradually lured into the folds of Baba Nirala. Satti tries to dissuade his sister but is himself sucked into the Aashram as he too is influenced by the charismatic baba and the doors of fortune that he can open for the downtrodden.

Inspector Ujagar Singh (Darshan Kumaar), a disillusioned but honest inspector, and Dr. Natasha (Anupriya Goenka), a forensic expert, are pursuing the case of an unidentified skeleton found during the excavation of a forest land. As they dwell deeper and deeper into the case, they realize that the body found might just have the power to discomfort and disillusion a lot of powerful people. The rest of the series is about how these different tracks proceed and cross each other’s path affecting the outcome and lives of all the characters involved. As the story progresses, new secrets are revealed, and we are forced to encounter twists and turns in every nook and corner that not only point fingers to the Baba but also reveal his sinister past.

Aaditi Pohankar and Tushar Pandey in a still from Aashram

Prakash Jha directs the series in his trademark realistic yet entertaining style that we have come to identify him with from films like Raajneeti, Apaharan, and Gangajaal. The series starts off with a bang and remains extremely engrossing up till the 6-7th episode mark after which he loses steam a little bit. The proceedings are breezy and there is an element of surprise in the narrative that keeps the viewer guessing. Jha draws inspiration heavily from real-life events and people and that injects a sense of Deja Vu in everything that the series shows us. This helps the narrative immensely and aids the efforts of the director of making the proceedings even more gripping and close to reality.

Bobby Deol turns in a fantastic performance as Baba Nirala. He has the kind of appearance that makes him look like a good man who is incapable of doing anything wrong. As the series progresses, we are gradually made privy to how evil he can be and what he is capable of, but it is all done in nuggets which makes every eventual act of evil that he commits more shocking than the previous. Bobby grasps the core of the character and plays it with the kind of ease that makes his essay believable. When he is shown to be good, he is supremely confident and cool in the avatar, but it is when his sinister sides are revealed that he truly comes to his own and makes a bigger splash. I loved his sequences with Chandan Roy Sanyal, who plays his chief crony and accomplice. Through there dialogue, Jha gives us glimpses into the sinister past of the man and it is in these sequences that Bobby excels the most.

Darshan Kumaar is my next favorite performance in the series. He not only feels like the man that he is playing but brings a sense of comedy and drama to the character that is immensely likable. I loved how the character is evidently smitten by the forensic expert but is unable to express himself as she doesn’t see the police in a good light. As the story progresses, his character assumes more and more importance. Kumaar infuses a lot of heart in his essay that makes the character special. Chandan Roy Sanyal as Bope is terrific. Bobby Deol might be the anti-hero of the series, but it Sanyal who gets to be the face of the evil and he does so with such clinical ease that it becomes hard to say who is more ruthless the baba or him.  It is evident that Prakash Jha is gearing up the character of Pammi played by Aaditi Pohankar for greater things in the subsequent parts of the season. She plays the smitten disciple of the baba to perfection in this part and has the necessary gusto to pull off the portions that depict her as a wrestler. I am hoping for a lot of fireworks from her character in the next part of the season.

Bobby Deol in a still from Aashram

Aashram can be sighted as a welcome back to form for Prakash Jha whose works have been going haywire for a while now. While there will be many who will be loathing it for its portrayal of yet another evil Baba as a practicing Hindu, one cannot deny that it is a mighty entertaining series with almost every performance landing perfectly. The fact that the series has incited the audience’s interest in the large gamut of character and the story seems poised to be going to some dark places in the subsequent parts, it will have audiences coming back to it for more. I will be eagerly waiting for the second part of the first season. The series is available to view for free on MX Player website and app.

Rating 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

 

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