Ek Badnaam… Aashram 3: The series, which only sporadically springs to life, banks on unequal battles. The show is, therefore, inevitably, and frequently, left to scramble for devices that can help
Cast: Bobby Deol, Aaditi Pohankar, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Darshan Kumaar, Anupria Goenka, Adhyayan Suman, Tridha Choudhury, Vikram Kochhar, Tushar Pandey, Sachin Shroff, Anuritta Jha, Rajeev Siddhartha, Parinitaa Seth, Tanmaay Ranjan, Preeti Sood, Esha Gupta, Jahangir Khan, Kanupriya Gupta and Navdeep Tomar
Director: Prakash Jha
Rating: Two and a half stars (out of 5)
The self-styled godman of Kashipur is back. And so obviously are his depredations helped along by the corrupt cops and malleable politicians he manipulates with absolute impunity. If that sounds like a whole lot of action, tone down your expectations. Season 3 of Aashram, mounted and executed with flair, delivers only in spurts.
Notwithstanding his dissolute ways, the petty criminal-turned-preacher still has a following so huge that the chief minister of the state is at his mercy, the cops are at his beck and call and he can manipulate the administrative and judicial systems the way he pleases.
Baba Nirala is more powerful than ever – he inches ever closer to mutating from a mortal Baba to a miracle-dispensing Bhagwan. Unfortunately, however, the one miracle that the character is in dire need of – a touch of mystery and menace – eludes him.
Surrounded by his raucous and delirious acolytes, he is stuck in a predictable loop. The character is unable to break free from the limitations of a plot that pits him against a bunch of disillusioned followers who would love to see him bite the dust but stand little chance of actually pulling the mask off his face.
Baba Nirala (Bobby Deol) is hard-pressed to capture the aura and intrigue that consistently surrounded him in the first two seasons of Aashram, an MX Player original series. He is far too unbudgingly set in his ways to be able to spring any surprises upon those around him – or upon the audience.
The confrontations between him – more often than not, his principal trouble-shooter Bhopa Swami (Chandan Roy Sanyal) stands in for him – and those that he has either brazenly wronged or treated duplicitously are, barring stray exceptions, tepid. This is despite the fact that director Prakash Jha clearly knows a thing or two about the art and craft of delivering dramatic flourishes.
He peppers the narrative with occasional flashpoints that raise hopes of a ‘larger picture’ canvas emerging from the story’s many meanderings. The faith-politics-police nexus still holds sway over the narrative. The plot also touches upon a case sexual abuse and government-backed land grab and displacement of forest dwellers. These twists and turns that threaten Baba Nirala’s empire of evil are, however, at best a trickle.