Cast: Huma Qureshi, Sohum Shah, Amit Sial, Kani Kusruti, Inaamulhaq, Vineet Kumar and ensemble.
Creator: Subhash Kapoor
Director: Karan Sharma
Streaming On: Sony Liv
Politics in itself is a bread that every filmmaker in the digital arena tries to dig their teeth deep into. But in an instant, what comes out is a half baked satire that makes almost bare minimum to no point; Yes Tandav is the recent example. Huma Qureshi’s Maharani comes out at a time where one can expect a controversy even before they complete saying politics in one breath. While Huma is the ultimate queen in here, does the show do justice to her hard work? Let’s see.
Maharani Review: What’s It About:
Reportedly based on three-time CM of Bihar Rabdi Devi and the phase when Lalu Prasad Yadav named her as the successor when the hell was about to break loose on him. Maharani also kick starts at a similar note. After an assassination attempt, Bihar CM Bheema Bharti (Soham Shah) names his wife Rani Bharti (Huma Qureshi) as his successor. A great strategy to have the hold on the chair and keep the wheel of ‘nepotism’ spinning faster.
But lesser does the man know that the wife he thought was illiterate and will function as a puppet in his hand, would turn out to be a force to reckon. She finds her forever lost confidence and begins reigning Bihar on her own terms.
Maharani Review: What Works:
This doesn’t happen a lot of times, but I will regret it if I do not begin this section by appreciating the cast first. To be honest, Maharani literally is 60 per cent about its spectacular actors and 40 per cent about the content that they get to chew. It is about a woman who enters the man’s world and begins her reign asking the basic question ‘why are there no women in this room?’
Huma Qureshi becomes Rani Bharti. Her look, her body language, the physicality and a constant accent. It is not a 2-hour film, but almost 7-8 hours of long format content, that asks for a lot from an actor, and Huma is ready to give it all. She seems to have absorbed Rani to an extent that at one point, you forget that she is an actor playing a part. There is this beautiful scene (also credits to the writers) when Rani is announced the CM and people walk up to a clueless Huma and cheer around her. Not knowing what’s happening and guessing that now people are now looking up to her, she breaks down. Huma won my heart at that very moment.
Similar is with the rest of the main cast that includes Sohum Shah as Bheema and Amit Sial as the opposition (supposedly not a nod to Nitish Kumar). Both the actors show why creators run behind them to get on board. Amit isn’t new to this setup but manages to bring the freshness. He talks in puzzles and throws random shayaris that do make him annoying, but that is a character trait, and he succeeds in driving the point home. Kani Kusruti deserves a special mention. OK Computer and now Maharani, she has a range!
Coming to writing, Maharani written by Subhash Kapoor, Uma Shankar Singh and Singh Nandan, has more loopholes than it should. About that later. But what it succeeds in is creating a universe that looks real. On top of that, the fictional tale brushes too much with the territory a real-life story is already in. And we all know how much of a controversy that single aspect of their being is capable of.
While the first Legislative Assembly scene comes out half baked, the dialogues in the scene are powerful. And Huma makes sure she delivers it with conviction that you forgive the makers for the randomness of it all. Also, watch out for the sequence when she takes the oath as the Chief Minister. How the men laugh at a woman feeling helpless. This is turning out to be an Huma Qureshi appreciation note, and I won’t complain.
Just like that the writing around the cast politics gets interesting each time it is mentioned. Dialogues like “Jaati hi Bihar ka sabse bada satya hai” made me realise that the team did have the zest needed to create a show successful in all aspects, but were held back or not fully prepared to make one.
Director Karan Sharma does manage to create a universe that does hook you for the most part of it. Primarily when it is focusing on Maharani, which it is actually supposed to.
Maharani Review: What Doesn’t Work:
Let’s list down shows that brush up with politics in the most recent times. Tandav, Paatal Lok, Dark 7 White, Mirzapur 2 and some more. What is the rate of success? Probably 25 percent. Why do I talk about this math? Because creators need to understand that when you venture out in that arena, it isn’t unexplored and that your research and product need to be something that, if not outdone, it at least matches to the ones that are already reigning.
Maharani that makes it clear it is about Huma Qureshi’s Rani with its title, more than enough times becomes about everyone else. Your lead actor has the capability to have more amount of screen time and drive the show on her able back. There was no need to shift the focus more than needed. It only ended up making it look like a lack of trust in the cast.
That brings me to Mukesh Chhabra, who has done a spectacular casting otherwise, but why on Earth would you cast an actor with a South Indian accent as the DSP of Bihar Police. On top of that, he mentions more than twice that he has been in Bihar for 30 years, making his accent more difficult to digest.
The change in dynamics. For example, take Netflix’s British show The Crown. It is also about a clueless woman coming into power and learning the game while running the show. The self catharsis, her journey, mentally, physically, metaphorically, is what makes it an indulging watch. Just like reality, her journey from a nervous woman to a confident speaker is gradual, and you see her progress step by step. They also had the liberty of 10 episodes.
So did the makers of Maharani, who, rather than using those 10 episodes to show a gradual scaling of heights of their Maharani, chose to introduce 100 subplots, with half of them not really reaching a satisfying conclusion. Rather they rushed for a closure. The rush was also evident when Huma, who lacked even a bit of confidence in the 2nd episode, stood in the Assembly and showed power-hungry men their place in the 3rd episode. This is not a film, you have 10 hours. Rapid actions for a moment as crucial as this will only kill the effect.
Also, why add a random Baba to this mix and make it look so stereotypical? Also, the Baba is caught by the police in a way like Baba Ramdev was a few years ago (in disguise). If you want to be a politically charged voice making commentary in real times, be a constant one. Easter eggs don’t work in this case. The ‘Cahra Ghotala’ (fodder scam), is also one.
Mahesh Dhakde’s music is more masala than intrigue and depth. Take notes from The Crown again, if there is a season 2.
Maharani Review: Last Words:
Huma Qureshi is a queen, and it breaks my heart that the show could not live up to her hard work. You should watch it to experience how amazing an actor Huma is and what she is capable of. But also remember, Subhash Kapoor, the creator has created 2 women-centric projects in recent time. A move to whitewash the misconduct allegations against him?
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