Indian series Aranyak is going to be a love/hate affair. It’s a twisty-turny whodunit, adding elements of folklore, political intrigue and character drama together into a cliched and disappointing murder mystery.
You’ve got your shady government officials, the polar opposite detectives working together and the damsel in distresses that need saving. This is certainly no Sacred Games, and the writing is questionable at the best of times.
Split across 8 episodes, the first works to set the scene – with a fair amount of unnatural and awkward expository dialogue to boot (more on that in a minute.)
The main drive behind these killings appear to stem from the legendary Leopard-Man. This creature is said to come out during the eclipse to feast on blood. It’s also a superstition that many in this town believe to be true – even if it flies in the face of scientific rationale. Remember we mentioned the unnatural dialogue? Well, a coroner there mentions early on that the deceased must have been killed by a supernatural being. Even though there’s very obviously physical evidence to examine.
The story really kicks into high-gear though when an estranged foreigner called Julie Baptiste shows up at the police station, claiming her daughter Aimee and his boyfriend have been kidnapped.
Our protagonist at the heart of this is grizzled police officer Kasturi. She’s about to go on a year-long sabbatical until she learns what’s happened to Aimee. Off the back of this, Katsuri decides to investigate the case. Predictably she’s teamed up with her replacement, Angad, and the pair set to work.
Adding more depth to the story is Kasturi’s father-in-law Mahadev, a decorated detective at the police station. He’s had run-ins with the Leopard Man before and even has the scars on his neck to prove it.
Most of the season plays out in typical whodunit fashion, with plenty of suspicious characters taking their turn in the spotlight. When the truth is finally revealed, there’s a mixture of both surprise and also a bit of obviousness too. I won’t spoil anything here but given the number of twists and turns this one takes, the ending feels disappointing.
If you can get past the particularly rough first episode, Aranyak does open up a bit. The shorter episode run-time helps in that respect, while the mystery is just enough to stick with to find out what happens.
The writing is still a mixed bag most of the way through the show though, with some painfully ill-timed jokes and an utterly bizarre and unearned romance. In fact, the funniest line in the whole show isn’t even meant to be a joke but it’s so incredulous that you can’t help but chuckle. “We cannot shake hands with snakes because snakes do not have hands.” Brilliant.
Aranyak is not likely to gain the plaudits, but it may hit a good number of views on Netflix. Billed as the Indian Mare Of Easttown (it’s not, don’t kid yourself. There are far better Indian shows on the platform), Aranyak awkwardly attempts to blend supernatural and gritty crime together but falls short of expectations.
Verdict - 4.5/10