Digital Review: ‘Maharani’ (Sony LIV)

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Karan Sharma directed ‘Maharani’ sees Huma Qureshi in the protagonist’s role and the trailer seems intriguing, particularly to see her in such a traditional role. With politically driven web-series almost being flavour of the day, ‘Maharani’ promises a story which would show the strength of a woman who is placed into an essentially male-dominated world and not on her free will.

Rani Bharti (Qureshi) is the wife of the Chief Minister of Bihar, Bheema Bharti (Sohum Shah), and when he is attacked, ending up bedridden, he passes his title and the responsibilities on to his wife. She doesn’t take to the position like a duck to water and is criticised for a complete lack of experience and education. Can she turn this around and be a real stand-in for her husband as he recovers?

First and foremost, it has to be said that the casting of the show seems to be so on point. Qureshi as Rani Bharti, Shah as Bheema Bharti and also Amit Sial who plays the leader of the “opposition” are all fantastic in their respective roles. As a viewer, you’re so fixated on the way the story goes and the disguise of the characters that you sometimes forget the actors playing them and this is perhaps the biggest compliment to give. This also goes for some of the actors in smaller roles such as Kani Kusruti and Inaamulhaq. The one supporting actor which stands out is Pramod Pathak – he’s fantastic as the right-hand man for the Chief Minister.

Sharma as director brings the story out in a rustic, authentic and overall easy way, with nuanced characters which bring together a story which is both inspiring and entertaining. Rani Bharti’s character goes through a number of transitions but also in keeping with her own life experiences and it’s therefore important in the underlying themes of a female forefront, a strong character who is also a housewife (sometimes portrayed as an oxymoron in Indian series or film) and also that she’s capable of making tough decisions without having the advice of her husband who is more experienced. It’s a refreshing take on politics and manages to tackle a number of stereotypes in the process. Sharma has also managed to bring about these stereotypes in clever ways, especially through the first entry of Rani Bharti in the first episode. That’s poignant in itself as to how the audience views her character.

The one disappointment, so to speak, that this series has is that Rani Bharti is the protagonist but her role is sometimes overtaken a bit too much by the other characters. A series like this probably holds an expectation that she’s seen more and there’s much more focus on her than the others and the circumstances. Qureshi holds her own in the series and manages to carve a space in the viewers’ thoughts but it would’ve been great to see more of her and her thought process.

Overall, ‘Maharani’ is a decent watch which will keep the audience suitably entertained. It particularly shows the versatility of Qureshi and Shah, together making a rather interesting pair in all the scenes they share throughout the series. The story itself makes you question virtue and how people place it on their list of priorities in a political spectrum – as well as the challenges in doing so.

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