‘Audience respected that we kept Aarya series family-friendly’: Director Ram Madhvani

Q/ Has the character arc of the protagonist evolved in response to how the series has been received or was this how she was originally conceived?

A/ Yes, she has gone from being an innocent housewife to a mafia don, to now running something she never wanted to run. She is no longer laughing; she is a lot more serious, alert, and has experienced many betrayals. So, the price of her maturity is the loss of her innocence.

Q/ This time Sushmita Sen came back to the set after a massive health scare.

A/ I’m just happy that Sushmita Sen is back and that she is okay. She has incredible strength, and the way she has dealt with it, is just hats off.

Q/ The series has an immensely powerful support cast, though some like Chandrachur Singh remained grossly unutilised. How do you navigate the space between talent and screen time?

A/ Well, Chandrachur came in almost like a cameo. He fulfilled a very important role, and that’s really the catalyst in a way. It truly set Aarya on her journey. Otherwise, Aarya could not have taken over the business—something that she never wanted to do. I am always worried about doing justice to the actors, but I also have to do justice to the characters. It’s a tightrope that I am hoping we are walking well.

Q/ What about Aarya, according to you, has resonated with the audience?

A/ There are many things that resonated, I feel, with the audience. One of them is the idea that it’s not really a crime show; it’s a family show. Televisions are in living rooms, and not in the bedrooms in most homes in India, so it’s a family audience that needs to see it. We are very cognizant of the idea that families are watching it together. We need to make sure it reaches out to the family, so we don’t do anything that is not family-friendly. I think that’s something that people have respected. The fact that it is a show about a family, not a show about crime or drugs.

The second thing is that in every show, we put in some kind of philosophy or something to elevate the show. In the first season, it was the Bhagavad Gita; in the second season, we had Digambar Khele Masane Mein Holi, and in the third season, we have poetry that Aru the daughter sings, which talks about sacrifice. So, I think that’s the other thing that people have appreciated.

Q/ How was the idea of Aarya born and how much of the original idea has translated onto the screen? Will fatigue set in after an X number of seasons?

A/ The idea of ‘Aarya’ was born many years ago when I wanted to make it a feature film. It is based on ‘Penoza’, but we adapted it culturally to our context to make it feel believable.. We are not ‘Greenlit’ by Disney Plus Hotstar; we are ‘Greenlit’ because the audience wants more. We are hoping that we don’t do the show to the extent that the audience tells us not to do it anymore. We are hoping to do it only when the audience asks us for more.

Q/ The reviews for this season have been a mixed bag. What is your take?

A/ Reviews actually do matter to me. It’s the good ones you don’t remember, but the mixed ones you do remember, and you do think about it. I think it’s good to listen to what critics and the people are saying, and I think about what they tell us regarding what was right and what was wrong. It’s not just the audience, but it’s also the reviews, so I respect the reviewers.

Q/ Was the tone of the show – fewer dialogues, more action – a deliberate decision?

A/ As we go forward, it seems like Aarya herself, because of the business she has chosen, is in an action-driven industry. Therefore, she has to drive it through action and not through dialogue. That has been part of the nature of the work that she does.

Q/ Some things in the show appear very misplaced – the written art performances, the warm coats that the protagonist wears, for instance. Are these deliberate?

It is winter, Aarya is urban, and the show has been a placed in an urban environment. So, if we were shooting in the summer, which was in season 2, then the clothing reflected that. If we are shooting in winter, then the clothing does reflect that. As far as the poetry and performance go, we include them as thematic elements that we try to add to the show, which a lot of people have appreciated.

Q/ What do you think is that one binding force that criss-crosses your cinematic universe?

A/ Well, I try to incorporate some philosophy into everything I do, and there is always some Sanskrit influence. There are always spiritual and thematic ideas that cross my work. Whether it’s in Neerja, where there were Sanskrit shlokas, or in Dhamaka, with the song that says Khoya Paya Tune Kya containing Sanskrit shlokas. In Aarya, there’s also the Bhagavad Gita. So yes, it does derive from what life is about, and there are certain life questions that come up. The second thing that the work has is the moral choices the protagonist is put into, which revolve around Dharma and Karma, duty and action. Especially seeing a woman like Aarya or Neerja dealing with these moral choices and the roles that women have—whether they are a mother first, or a daughter, a wife, or a working woman—the juggling of those roles is also really what I am interested in.

Q/ What’s next?

A/ We are in discussions regarding some international collaborations. When they come together, we will share more information with you.