Welcome to a world that portrays an unknown saga! The mega blockbuster Baahubali franchise spawned off an equally mega show like Aarambh, which touted to explore the story of Devsena. The historic war between the Dravidians and the Aryans was given birth owing to a plethora of happenings and that is what is Aarambh is all about.
Probably the most expensive show in recent times, the promos raised an instant intrigue and caught one's eye. We were witnessing something absolutely novel, especially when it comes to the gigantic canvas of the show.
The show finally went on-air and now 2 episodes down, I will take into account the several factors and whether or not, Aarambh manages to impress.
The Story So Far.
In some illusions and horoscope-looking visuals, a voiceover explains to us about how Sapt Sindhu is the place to be. Apparently, it's so important that the monumental fight of Dravidians and Aryans happened to claim the throne of the Sapt Sindhu! Looking at the visuals of the place, I don't blame them. It's ginormous and opulent as nothing can be.
Coming back, there is a huge fire pit where the head purohit is chanting some mantras and explains how Lord Indra has given them the signs that the clan has to leave for the Sapt Sindhu. Also, there is a never-ending line of people surrounding the pit (where probably 15-20 are real ones, the rest are there thanks to the green screen). The purohit explains that the God of Light (Melisandre reference is obvious here) has also granted them permission to go and find fertile land for the Aryan clan. He assigns Veer Kayast (Tarun Khanna) to lead the troupe and the man's ultimate goal, to lead his men, has been achieved.
Now, there is a Jon Snow doppelganger Varundev (of course, he is the lead here too) (Rajneesh Duggal) who is a brave, honorable and determined fighter. He wants to find fertile land and establish their clan there just like the others, which is a huge task. However, he awaits Veer Kayast's hopes of choosing him to be a part of the troupe. After a little drama of 'he will choose me, he will choose me not', Veer Kayast does choose Varundev.
On their way through the Wall and Wildings (oh sorry, went Game Of Thrones-y again); on their way through frozen mountains, they face cold storms which make you feel cold too.(probably!) Veer Kayast slips and is about to fall just when Varundev saves him. And looking at the weather, they decide to camp and wait for the time to pass. Now, it's morning again and they are ready to go. However, wildling looking people called Nimchas are coming and they literally eat humans, so they have to be fought and killed. After some completely unimpressive fight scenes, Kayast is about to die after being stabbed, when Varundev holds him and Kayast stabs Nimcha throwing him off the cliff. A bruised Kayast feels indebted to Varundev and the latter decides to pick and carry him up on his back for the rest of the journey.
After a flashback scene of Kayast and his father, Varundev with Kayast on his back and the rest of the troupe, cross the mountain and they can see the Sapt Sindhu area. Kayast is amazed and smiles, but also knows that he is going to die anytime soon. In the most quintessential sequences, a dying Kayast hands over his sword to Varundev and alas! Kayast is dead. A shocked and now even more determined Varundev announces that 'Hey there Dravidians, we are coming!'
And now welcome to the Dravidian civilization which is as rich and affluent as the Lannisters in King's Landing. Also here, it is the women in the family who rule and become the successors to the throne eventually. However, there is no Tyrion, Jaime or Cersei here, but there is one lady who could give Petyr Baelish a run for his money and that is Dayalini (Haansaa Singh). The Dravidian kingdom has lost their queen Chamundi and now the rightful heir to the throne is her daughter, Devsena. But the latter is a small kid and cannot rule so soon (not everyone can be Lyanna Mormont). So, Dayalini wants to sit on the throne and rule but is stopped from doing so as she has no claim over it, inspite of being Devsena's aunt.
Now Dayalini has her set of bitching servants who help her in plotting her claim to the throne. Dayalini has done it all; from trying to kill Devsena to plan her rise to the throne, to being damned and much more. However, one of the bitching servants tells that even though Hahumaa (Tanuja Mukherji) loves Devsena, she will not let Devsena become a queen, as she is made to believe that Devsena is not fitting for the throne. Ah! By the way, Hahumaa is 400 years old. Yes!
Cut to a grown up Devsena (Karthika Nair), who establishes to the viewers that she is ferocious and doesn't fear anything by out-swimming a crocodile and doing some aerial stunts. And Dayalini is at her cunning best trying to make Hahumaa believe that Devsena is immature as she is too speedy and does dangerous things, putting the realm at risk and also how she is not going to be a good queen as the people are not scared of her etc. Everything is answered straightly by Hahumaa and Devsena's father at different intervals.
Now, Devsena is also a rebel and she wants to know and enter the prohibited area at Sapt Sindhu as prophesied by Hahumaa that if she goes there, the destruction era of Dravidian clan will begin as it will serve as an entry for their enemy. And that's when Varundev also arrives at the same spot. Devsena and Varundev look at each other and you know a war is going to come up. After some trash talking, Varundev and Devsena are ready and strike their weapons flying in the air.
Cut to the funeral ceremony of Veer Kayast, where the whole Aryan clan are paying their respects and that is when one of the Aryan men, Abhrook (Vipul Gupta) revolts about how Veer Kayast doesn't have his sword and it's a disgrace to not respect a dead man without his sword. That is also when he learns that Varundev has Kayast's sword and that it was Kayast's dying wish that Varundev keeps it and also succeeds him. However, it is later decided that this will happen only after a fair competition between Varundev and the other candidates.
In the meantime, there are some sweet moments between Devsena and her father after which, the coronation ceremony of Devsena is being planned. But, Dayalini and her pupils have their master plan all set, to spoil the ceremony. The entry of Hahumaa in the kingdom is nothing short of an affair, where the coronation ceremony is an absolute splendor. Amidst all this, Hahumaa is getting all the signs about the ceremony being jinxed. And the same is sealed when the buffalo, which was set to be used for the ceremony falls flat, which was obviously planned by Dayalini and her servant-pupil. Thus, Hahumaa announces that the ceremony has to be canceled right away and there will be no coronation.
Simultaneously, the competition to become the new leader of the Aryavarths, is on and needless to say, Varundev wins the competition after a bravura performance and some acrobatic skills too. If you felt sad about Devsena's coronation being canceled, you can have some respite in the form of Varundev's mini coronation as he is now the leader of the Aryan clan, who will lead to capture the Sapta Sindhu.
And finally, after all this, Hahumaa puts her mind to work and wonders that someone is trying to kill Devsena and her obvious options are Dayalini and an Aryan. But she gets bamboozled on the thought that her father, Arvamadhan can also be one of them.
Thus begins the game of betrayal, backstabbing and claim to the throne for one and capturing of lands for the other! Too Game of Thrones-y? That's how it is. Will Devsena's coronation take place? How will Varundev plan his war against the Dravidians? Is Arvamadhan really the loving father that he acts to be? Only time will tell.
Rating - *** (3/5)
This point comes as a mandate given the scale of the show. The show's visuals are resplendent and extravagant. It is no secret how the show is a mega budget one and the money seems to be put to good use, as the locations and the cinematography of the same is stunning and the spectacle is worth watching.
Finally, we can say that we are witnessing good CGI effects in an Indian TV show! The effects in the show are completely believable and does fool the eye in the apt manner. Look at that croc! It looks more real than Rakhi Sawant on the whole! (Sarcasm not intended)
The screenplay is captivating as you have action rather frequently, which is good as it keeps you engaged in this otherwise convoluted show.
Taking lead from the last point mentioned above, the plot and the dialogues are extremely convoluted for Indian audience to endure. Of course, we don't expect youth slangs, but the treatment of dialogues needs to be simplified for better interpretation. Infact, there is a bit of disconnect too, where Varundev and Devsena clash at the end of the episode and the next episode begins with Kayast's funeral ceremony.
The tempo of the show drops drastically from the first episode and it even becomes apparent when the scenes at the Dravidian kingdom are portrayed. Also, there are too many flashbacks in the show which leave you disoriented as a viewer.
There is a lot of reference to the popular epic drama, Game Of Thrones. OK, I understand how this was rather predictable for some of you that Aarambh will be compared to Game Of Thrones and that it is not fair to do so etc. But, I wouldn't have been considering it, if there were not so OBVIOUS 'similarities' between the two. Especially, the Nimcha and Aryan clan fight scene makes you remember the Watchers on the Wall and 'Wildling-meets-White Walkers' time and again. So, even though this doesn't spoil the plot line completely, such obvious references to yet another Hollywood saga was the last thing expected out of Aarambh. Here are some proofs of the same-
Be it the Jon Snow poses and looks
Or the entry to Westeros-
And the Nimchas' costumes seem to be borrowed from the wildlings-
Three Eyed Raven must be missing having snakes around him-
Veer Kayast couldn't have burned in a better way than that of Mance Rayder's-
Rating - ** (2/5)
To begin with actor Tarun Khanna aka Veer Kayast manages to put in a decent performance as the Lord Commander. However, now that his character is dead, we wonder was it for an episode only? Probably not. We will have to wait and see.
Rajneesh Duggal as Varundev looks fierce and is impressive playing the man who has to take over the reigns in an unanticipated manner and has to lead his troupe. There is a sense of discomfort when it comes to the times, where he has to be subtle and mellow, but that will certainly get better with the future episodes as we will see a lot of action apart from mellow scenes.
Karthika Nair as Devsena is fantastic. She has to sport a confident smile and still manage to not look overconfident, which is done exceedingly well. Her comfort with the action sequences, portrays the level of hard work and practice she must have put in to get that ease. As the titular character, Karthika is fabulous and leaves a lasting impact.
Tanuja Samarth Mukherji makes her television debut with this show and the veteran is no stranger to acting, having given some of the most memorable performances. Here, she plays a 400 year old woman wearing snakes and doing prophecies. She is good and what's best about her is her voice, which is also used as the voice over when the show begins.
The rest of the cast which include Dayalini (Haansaa Singh), Devsena's father (Joy Sengupta) and the plethora of supporting actors manage to give decent performances which lift the show up.
Rating - ***1/2 (3.5/5)
As intriguing as the base plot of the show sounds and appears, one of the biggest drawbacks of the show is the treatment of the main plot. The screenplay is too convoluted and can be difficult for the Indian viewers to endure such 'heavy' lines and scenes. Having said that, Aarambh is a celebration of new age of television and ups the ante to the maximum, where we can be proud that Indian TV gave us a show like Aarambh. The grandiose of the show is an absolute treat to the eyes. We were watching a revolution on television and the obvious faults in the show can be given a skip, for the sake of someone daring to have the guts to make a show like this in India. Hats Off for that Sir!
Rating - *** (3/5)
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