Netflix’s crime drama series “Rana Naidu” has a lot to do with the scandalous secret lives of the rich and famous, all of whom need to consult the services of fixer Rana Naidu. But, at its center, the series is easy to see as a family drama of sorts, as quite a few of the ten episodes actually focus on the impacts of certain individuals on the lives of their family members. The Naidu family, whose members we are gradually introduced to and watch closely for the most part, is heavily disjointed and broken, despite always claiming to be one to stick with each other. Both individually as well as with the other members, most of these characters have some characteristics that are not very serious or profound but are enough to keep things interesting.
First off, there is definitely the titular protagonist, Rana Naidu, who is one of the most severe men in Indian Netflix productions. Rana is hardly seen smiling or expressing himself freely, other than in a few moments with his wife or brothers. Such has been the character’s story arc so far that he has been weighed down by responsibilities that have perhaps taught him not to be expressive. When Naga later says that he always had faith in Rana that the boy would look after all his siblings, we get a glimpse into the man’s childhood days too. Rana indeed seems to have been intense from his very childhood days, and now, in an unlawful profession that constantly poses serious risks, he is even more reserved and expressionless. Rana usually tries to keep his professional and personal lives separate for obvious reasons, but that largely creates a difference between him and his wife, Naina. It is not that Rana does not realize this, but he chooses not to address it until the very end of episode 10, in which we hear his monologue admitting to Naina that his professional life had created a rift between them, one that he intends to fix. In certain senses, there is an evident hypermasculinity in Rana Naidu, which is downright disrespectful, if not toxic, in certain instances. In one of the many instances when Naina demands to be made a more direct part of her husband’s life, Rana chooses not to indulge in any conversation and instead casually throws a bunch of 2,000 Rupee notes at his wife, telling her to buy something fancy for herself with them.
It is rather surprising and a point of wonder that this shadow of a marriage does not actually break down between Rana and Naina. Their differences are quite evident, even to their own son Ani, who scaredly asks his mother not to get a divorce from his father, as that would break down their family completely. Ani notices the fact that the couple always fights with each other whenever they meet, for Rana is mostly not even at home for a number of days at a stretch. But there is also a clear reason presented for their marriage to have still worked out—it is Naina herself. Despite being a famous Telugu actress before her marriage, Naina gave up her life as an individual filled with potential and possibilities, first because of her love for Rana and now because of her love for her children. Although she does miss going back to Hyderabad, which she cannot do because her husband has strictly told her never to go back to Hyderabad, Naina does not really miss her old life much. As she herself admits, she enjoys playing the role of a mother and wife, which is so pertinent to her present, and would not return to acting by giving this up.
Infidelity does run as a theme in “Rana Naidu,” and so Rana and Naina are made to pass this test as well. Initially, Naina seems to be in contact with someone who asks her to meet her, making her look suspicious as well, but ultimately, that turns out to be her estranged father-in-law, Naga. But on the other side, Rana has a clear admirer in the form of the young woman Mandira, who is not at all shy about making her attraction felt. This is once again more part of the masculine trope of Rana’s character than any logical or believable thread, and like a true hero who is attractive but very loyal, Rana keeps turning down Mandira’s advances every time. However, there comes the point when his resolution breaks too, and in essence, these little happenings turn “Rana Naidu” into a truly grim show. Rana does eventually end up engaging in sexual activities with Mandira in a manner that is not the most subtle way of doing things. However, this matter of infidelity remains a secret between Rana, Mandira, and us viewers, as Naina is never informed of it. Had things gone the same way, and would she have accepted Rana the same way, in the end, had Naina known about this?
Rana is always at his most aggressive and toughest self with his father, Naga, and can even be considered volatile whenever the man is around. There are moments when the son is almost about to beat up his father or even shoot the man, and family members have to intervene. As is understood, Rana is always angry and bitter at his father for having been the worst possible father to children, as he believes it. But as it turns out, Rana’s claims are often false or misremembered by him, and it seems like these accounts of the past that Rana presents are born out of or influenced by his hatred for his father and not the other way around. Among his claims, the most valid is that Naga was extremely unavailable to his children, always being away from the house or busy with his matters, which were mostly bodily and sexual. Naga is unabashedly admitting of his vices at all times; he did not take long to get involved in a second romantic affair after his first wife died. Rana pushes himself to stay loyal to his wife primarily because he does not want the vices of his father, but the essence of “bad blood” running through all members of the Naidu family is something that is predominantly present in “Rana Naidu.”
There is also the fact that Rana himself is not very available to his own children, often staying away from the house for days because of professional or personal needs and keeping a lot of secrets from them. But the man does eventually open up, perhaps again remembering his father as the example not to set. Rana tells his daughter about the woman after whom she had been named, for Nitya was the name of the younger sister the Naidu brothers had. This was also the reason why Rana overreacted, as always, when Rehaan tried to force his daughter Nitya into lovemaking. Although Rehaan did not have any serious wrong intentions and was rather foolishly childish in his actions, and Nitya, too, was of the same belief, Rana threatened to take the boy’s life if he was ever seen with Nitya again. Following this narrative thread, Rana later tells his daughter how his young sister Nitya committed suicide at the mere age of fifteen because she got pregnant and could not face the consequences related to it. Rana is also there by his son Ani’s side when the young boy has to witness the dead actor Prince hanging from the ceiling in his house.
Moving over to the other Naidu brothers, Tej and Jaffa are possibly the only two male characters in the series who can be sympathized with and felt for. This is because it is only the two of them who show shades of various emotions and feelings. Both of them are extremely violent and aggressive at times, but they are also contemptuous and able to feel guilt about their actions later on, which is not something expressed by any of the other members of the Naidu family. When, towards the end of the series, Tej decides to call the ambulance to help Vijaywada Maharaj, who is dying at his training center, he genuinely feels guilty for letting a man die in front of his eyes. Tej is willing to forgive the vile spiritual leader, at least for the time being, and not let him die, no matter how atrocious he had been to his brothers. But there is also an underlying aggressiveness in Tej, which is revealed the most when he beats up Ana’s abusive husband. The storyline with Tej trying to have a romantic connection with Ana is even sadder, as the man genuinely feels broken and confused the first time he sees his lover with a family of her own. Despite claiming that he does not want to be the reason for a family breaking apart, Tej does get involved with Ana. But ultimately, it does not work out either, as Tej decides to side with his family and give up on love in order to do so. Jaffa’s situation is harsh as well, as the rise and fall of emotions can be felt in each of his mental breakdowns that we are shown. Jaffa is clueless about what to do and how to live his life; he does not know how to spend the three crore rupees that he receives as compensation for the sexual abuse. Jaffa wants to have his own vehicle and buys a bike on a whim; he wants to own a place and buys an apartment, and yet he still feels empty and helpless. In the end, confronting the Maharaj seems like the most satisfying thing to Jaffa, but that, too, goes horribly wrong for him.
It is rather clear that none of the Naidu members have good or satisfying luck with romance, other than Rana, who still has a partner, only because Naina is ready to make unusually great sacrifices. Naga makes tall claims of having had numerous lovers and partners in his life, but the fact that he is left with nobody around him is also evident in him. The man tries his luck with Tara when he is in Mumbai, but he is also crude and problematic enough to think that the woman wants to be forced into lovemaking when she genuinely turns him down. Naga is still often stuck in the same world he witnessed before going to jail fifteen years ago and has trouble being appropriate in the necessarily changed world of the present. Tara is ultimately killed by Surya in the end, though, and whatever little we see of Naga grieving for her death is definitely not enough. In fact, it makes Naga appear like a severely self-centered man who only thinks of his own benefit and who, at present, is occupied with thoughts of how to get away with Prince’s murder. The only repercussion that Naga faces is that all the women in his life leave him and that he has to stay alone.
Other than the Naidus, most other characters are marked by vices of their own. OB is a long-time adulterer and is even shameless enough to have an affair with his own wife’s younger sister at present. The loathsome construction builder Soonawala literally uses his pregnant assistant’s back as a table to sign documents, among other exploitative moves. Prince keeps forgetting the name of the woman working as his baby’s nanny, and the actor also sexually exploits his secretary. Surya is presented as an outright villain, as the man murders his second wife in cold blood when he finds her irritable on the trip from Hyderabad to Mumbai. The CBI officer Eijaz Sheikh does not have any vices per se, but his heroic drive to find out the truth about criminals gets him killed.
The characters of Srini and Lara are left underdeveloped, even though they could have been a good fit to justify Rana’s extreme power and influence. After all, the most humorous and quirky moments in “Rana Naidu” are delivered by the side characters, and it would have been better to see more of such scenes. Two of my personal favorites include Srini laughing out at Ani’s claim that his teacher at school had just taught them how UNESCO had awarded the best national anthem prize to India for Jana Gana Mana. This hilariously brings up a real false claim of this sort that got certain sections of the Indian population celebrating around 2019. The other is the fact that superstar Prince actually has a photograph of himself with a dead blackbuck or some other kind of deer, which he had hunted, hanging in his house. Only if Rana Naidu were a real figure in this world (like those atrociously cringy promotional videos made by Netflix featuring real Bollywood actors), then certain superstars would not have to go through certain trials and tribulations. In fact, there is even a mention of Rana Naidu saving Bollywood star kids from trouble by cleaning up a drug bust aboard a cruise!