Ashram streaming on MX player marks the debut of filmmaker Prakash Jha on the OTT platform. With Bobby Deol in lead this 9 episode season one is right into Prakash Jha’s territory involving Social Issues, Police, Politics, Corruption and now he adds a dose of religion and superstitions as well.
Bobby plays the character of a self proclaimed godman in the show loosely based on Gurmeet Ram Rahim. “He is not a Godman he is a conman” as the trailer says, is the summary of Ashram in a nutshell.
Ashram is the story of a Baba Nirala (Bobby Deol), who is also known as Kashipur wale baba among his followers. He along with his aide Bhopa Bhai (Chandan Roy Sanyal), manage the Ashram and also execute a lot of shady businesses underneath.
Main plot of Ashram has a dalit girl Pammi (Aditi Pohankar), who is a wrestler but has to face discrimination in events because of her caste. To highlight the prevalent caste issue, the show starts with a Baraat of dalits getting beaten up by Upper Caste people as they pass through their area.
Pammi’s brother gets injured and when neither police nor hospital helps, comes Baba Nirala for her rescue. Pammi gets too moved and decides to join his Ashram and become a disciple of baba. Her brother also joins her as he also gets a job at the Ashram.
Another subplot has Inspector Ujagar Singh (Darshan Kumar), who is assigned a case, where a skeleton is found on the construction site of a big businessman. The construction halts and few bigwigs get into action to get that restarted.
While Ujagar is asked not to diligently follow the case by his superiors, he meets Dr. Natasha (Anupriya Goenka) and decides to follow all the leads to impress her. The information he discovers leads him to the Ashram and makes him convinced about Baba’s involvement.
Amidst all this Baba arranges for group marriages of former sex workers with his disciples and one of which is Babita (Tridha Choudhury), who is married to Pammi’s brother. Also, a lot of ceremonies which Baba calls as Shuddhikaran and Pran Prathishthan are also a part of the narrative.
Baba has grown too big in statute and every political party wants him to be on their side. Baba wants to broaden his reach to youth and adds Pop Star Tinka Singh (Adhyayan Suman) in his team as well.
In Ashram, Jha has explored a number of subplots but has not taken any of them to closure in Season 1, which gives us a hope for a very busy and engaging season 2.
Writing of Ashram is the highlight of the show and it is packed with ample twists, turns and almost everything you can relate with such plot.
Ashram is full of subplots which showcase everything that Prakash Jha cinema is associated with. It touches on everything from social Issues, political conspiracies, corruption, caste system, religious brainwashing and drugs.
A lot of subplots make Ashram an engaging watch and Jha takes his sweet time to create the buildup and never rushes through any part. Every character gets its screen time and feels like the part of the bigger picture not just fitted in for the sake of it.
The locations look realistic, dialects are original and the sets of Ashram look authentic. The performances from the lead actors are good.
The dialogues are very flimsy but fit the overall tone of the show. Some are ironic like
“Anuchit ko uchit banane ke liye anuchit hona bhi uchit hai” or “Hamaare desh mein log vishwas karna shuru karte hai toh baadh si aa jaati hai”
and some are cheesy lines which might make you cringe
“Jahan Noton se hoti hai kanoon ki aisi taisi, use India me kehte hain democracy”
Though Bobby Deol has given a good performance as Baba Nirala, he is not given expected screentime, which might be done in season 2.
Also, though lead actors have performed very well, the side actors have been a bit disappointing, which is also a usual for Prakash Jha films.
The runtime of Ashram is a bit on the longer side, 40 min episodes. The runtime of around 25-30 mins per episode could have kept things proceedings crisp
Ashram boasts of very good performances by its lead actors. Bobby Deol fits well as soft spoken Baba Nirala, and hopefully we will get to see more shades to his character in next season.
Chandan Roy Sanyal as Baba’s aide is excellent, so is Aditi Pohankar as Pammi. The duo of Darshan Kumar as Ujagar Singh and Anupriya Goenka as Dr Natasha are also very good and fit the part very well.
Tridha Choudhury as Babita has looked good and performed ably, so hasTushar Pandey as Satti. Special mention to Adhyayan Suman as Tinka Singh, who was barely recognizable and performed superbly in his limited scenes.
In a nutshell, with Ashram Prakash Jha has made an impressive debut on the platform. With no time limits for story telling he has gone all out with the storyline and has included as much meat as he can.
The show is thoroughly enjoyable with good performances, storyline and all elements of a masala entertainer. A very power packed trailer of the second season at the end promises that Ashram season 2 is going to be bigger, better and much more entertaining than the first.