Aashram Chapter 2 review: Prakash Jha pads out Bobby Deol's godman act into nine meandering episodes
Prakash Jha's show on MXPlayer is wide open for a (hopefully less verbose) chapter three.
Continuing from where it left off at the end of episode 9 of the first season, the Prakash Jha-directed drama about a godman and the truth behind his carefully crafted compassionate façade, resumes in Season 2.
Unlike the first season, which neatly set up the fascinating world of Baba Nirala’s sect, the godman’s trickery and the innocent, but compliant, devotees, the latest 'chapter' merely pads out the established plot points, stretching the storyline to nine more episodes.
The same players return. Pammi (Aaditi Pohankar), the wrestler, whose faith compelled her entire family to bow down to the Baba, is now in the lustful leader’s net. Bobby Deol reprises his role as the soft-spoken leader of a cult that superficially focuses on uplifting the downtrodden, while insidiously running a drug business. With the rise in Nirala’s popularity, the conman’s hubris reflects in his revamped designer wardrobe, a finery that cloaks his growing lust, corruption, political dealings, and greed. Ask any deeper questions of the Baba, and the result is brutal.
Heady with power, as Nirala’s appetite for risk and arrogance increase, he starts bypassing the counsel of his trusted aides Bhopa Swami (Chandan Roy Sanyal) and Sadhvi Mata (Parinita Seth). The latter is also dealing with her fading relevance as Babita (Tridha Choudhury) astutely embeds herself in Nirala’s chambers.
Two opposing politicians, Chief Minister Sundar Lal (Anil Rastogi) and opposition leader Hukum Singh (Sachin Shroff), preparing for an upcoming state election, ally with Nirali’s ashram in order to reach a wider electorate. Pop singer Tinka Singh’s (Adhyayan Suman) concerts become the stage for Nirala to preach his word and display his political alliance. At the same time, an undercover investigation to rake up dirt on Babaji is underway.
Having moved around the pieces on the board, Jha takes his time to get to the point. Many 'salutations,' 'hail babas,' repeated shots of devotees praising their guru, rock concerts, and dirty dealings later we return to where we started – Pammi’s retaliation and plans for a great escape.
Anupriya Goenka, Tushar Pandey, Vikram Kochchar, Darshan Kumaar, and Rajeev Siddhartha return to their substantial roles.
Based on a story by Habib Faisal, the screenplay and dialogue (Kuldeep Ruhil) indulge in tiresome real-time exposition, while larger sub-plots are easily discarded. Fortunately, Jha’s control over the universe and the vast ensemble cast, which pitches in with earnest performances, and the detailed production design, keep you engaged in a series that is wide open for a (hopefully less verbose) chapter three.
Aashram Chapter 2: The Dark Side is streaming on MX Player.
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