On the outside, Baba Nirmal (Bobby Deol) comes across as a very charitable person. He runs the 'Aashram' successfully with his right-hand and best buddy Bhopa Bhai (Chandan Roy Sanyal). Together, they look out for the dalits, who suffer due to the deep-rooted caste system. The plush and luxurious Aashram runs on the hefty donations made by businessmen and politicians. But, questions are raised when a skeleton is excavated from a construction site and the evidence points at a connection with Aashram. Soon, the Aashram comes under scanner with questions raised and answers sought by the cop duo Ujagar Singh (Darshan Kumaar) and Sadhu (Vikaram Kochhar), forensic expert Dr Natasha (Anupriya Goenka) and reporter Tinka Singh (Adhyayan Suman).
Prakash Jha is known for highlighting infamous issues that plague Indian society in his films. The director has touched upon issues like corruption in the film ‘Satyagraha’ and has explored the ongoings behind big political parties through ‘Raajneeti’. In ‘Aashram’, he walks us through the fraudulent ways of deceiving godmen, who rob poor people of their money and aspirations, all in the name of God. The Aashram (in the series) is a hotbed for criminal activities. From prostitution to flesh trade, drugs… everything happens here. In the past there have been a few Bollywood films that have been based on these subjects. But, this series gives minute details of the motives that drive a person to become a godman.
Bobby Deol has been experimenting with roles lately. After playing the good cop in ‘Class of '83’ he plays a dark character of a godman in 'Aashram'. Throughout his career, Bobby hasn't much played dark roles, so this comes as a pleasant surprise. He cannot really define emotions with clarity. Yet in a series like 'Aashram' he doesn't only play grey shades with grace, but also plays it with panache. His mettle has matured with age and considering the fact he has broken barriers, he can experiment a lot more by playing a variety of other parts. As a godman, he is diplomatic and advantageously steers the bass in his voice to suit the part. However, his costumes should have been altered to suit that of a godman — he looks more imperial and less like a godman. If it was an experiment to dress Bobby like a king and not a godman to break stereotypes, then it was a bad attempt.
Chandan Roy Sanyal as Bhopa Bhai, Babaji’s right hand, fills the void and serves as Babaji’s voice at several occasions. Sanyal has been dabbling with the craft extensively. He has made a mark in Bollywood with films like ‘Kaminey’ and has also earned a name in Bengali cinema. Anupriya Goenka plays a very strong female character of a forensic doctor in the beginning, but as soon as she starts getting romantically involved with Ujagar, her role gets considerably watered down. Hope her character picks up in the upcoming season.
Babita (Tridha Choudhry), who plays Satti’s (Tushar Pandey) wife, has a prolific part in the series. She plays a prostitute who gets married to a good man. Her role evolves more progressively when she learns that Babaji’s volunteers have robbed her husband off his manhood.
The series is written around an interesting premise. Certain aspects of story that directors have just brushed by in the past is more pronounced here. Overall a good show to watch.
Name of the series - Ashram
Platform - MX Player
Number of Episodes - 9 (Approx. 40 mins each)
Cast - Bobby Deol, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Aditi Pohankar, Darshan Kumaar, Adhyayan Suman, Anupriya Goenka, Tridha Choudhury, Vikram Kochhar, Tushar Pandey and Jehangir Khan
Director - Prakash Jha
Rating - 3/5