Aarya 3 feels like a recycled version of previous seasons, discovers Mayur Sanap.
Sushmita Sen returns to her ferocious avatar in the third season of Ram Madhvani's acclaimed Web series, Aarya.
A character in the show calls her sherni, a tigress.
It is a handy metaphor for a mother who can go all out to protect her turf.
Based on the Dutch original Penoza, the new season of this gritty crime thriller and takes us further in the world of Aarya Sareen (Sushmita) and her reluctant transformation into a drug kingpin.
As seen in the last two seasons, this is a solid premise.
But sadly, the third season crumbles under the big expectations giving us only a mildly satisfying experience. At least, that's the impression I've got based on the preview of first four episodes.
Aarya 3 carries on from where we left off in Season 2.
'Maine bhagna chhod diya hain (I have given up running),' Aarya says in a gloriously dramatic fashion, as she embraces everything she once hated and becomes the queen of the sprawling opium empire.
With Sampat (Vishwajeet Pradhan) as her aide, she is now doing business deals with the Russians, who were so after her life in the previous season.
On the other hand, ACP Younus Khan (Vikas Kumar) has devised a secret plan to entrap Aarya and bust the international drug cartel.
Aarya's troubles get more intense when two powerful nemesis Suraj (Indraneil Sengupta) and Nalini (Ila Arun) threaten to snatch away her family and business. Will she survive it all?
The biggest problem of Aarya 3 is how the core plot feels like a recycled version of previous seasons. There is no significant progression on the arc of the recurring characters which would have made us feel more invested in Aarya's journey.
This is especially apparent about Aarya's zesty teenage daughter Aru (Virti Vaghani), traumatised younger son Aditya (Pratyaksh Panwar), and defiant elder son Veer (Viren Vazirani). The dramatic tension that plays out in their stories is the same which makes it quite a monotonous watch.
Even the sub-plot involving Aarya's friend Maya (Maya Sarao) gets muddled when it tries to explore her guilt and doesn't hit us the way it's intended.
Bullets fly and double-crosses are looming but there is very little exciting about a rather clichéd drama that hardly explores its principal characters more than what we already know about them.
People walk around killing anybody in broad daylight, dumping bodies, exchanging illicit goods with no witnesses anywhere. Or maybe this would not have been such a distraction if the drama was solid enough to keep us captivated.
What works is how Sushmita Sen portrays Aarya.
Even during its shaky proceedings, Sen carries the show with her ferociously strong presence.
She is a drug lord with a heart, a good person doing bad things under dire circumstances.
As Aarya, Sushmita brings the right mix of grit and grace to the multi-faceted character. There is a much understated resolve and fire on her face and in her eyes, and Sushmita remains the biggest draw of the show.
The supporting cast is equally strong.
As the new entrants, Indraneil Sengupta is effective as the hate-filled man seeking revenge for the death of his loved one.
Ila Arun's character arrives late in the show but she certainly leaves us intrigued as a ruthless woman wrestling for power and control of the drug business.
It is disappointing to see the wonderful Geetanjali Kulkarni being wasted yet again by giving very little do as the crafty cop from the narcotics team.
Sikandar Kher and Vikas Kumar don't get much to do either, but their presence adds gravitas to the drama.
In the end, Aarya 3 falls considerably short to reach the heights of its predecessors despite its potential.
What we have here is the relentless violence and killing, until it all becomes a humdrum without the compelling drama.
Another double cross? Another murder? Come on, show us what else is new.
Aarya 3 streams on Disney+ Hotstar.