This is a kingdom where a Raja rules with an iron fist, his first born is destined to be his successor, the Maharani calls the shots for all matters related to ‘praja’ and her man’s desire for lust. This isn’t all as the women inside the ‘Raj mahal’ are meant to wear a chastity lock. It is a terrible place to be be, and terrifying too. Well, except for those who somehow manage to find a way around this all.
This means the maharani (Shilpa Shende) knows how to enjoy a better fate than three other Rani who have disappeared mysteriously, one of them being Flora Saini who is now cast as a mummy somewhere far away. The first born, a gay, is in a marriage of convenience with a princess who finds solace in a relationship with another woman. Then there is the younger son who falls in love with a ‘dasi’ (Poulomi Das) and while the relationship is anyways forbidden, it is also ill fated, courtesy the woman getting married to the Raja himself, Annu Kapoor.
That pretty much completes the circle for Paurashpur which is a costume drama set in a mythical 16th century India where power is driven by nepotism and lust is what drives the show, both in the day as well as the night. It is not a virtuous place to be in, and one dreads to imagine a ‘riyaasat’ like this actually existing back in time where women were either kicked around or lusted upon.
No wonder, you begin to hate Annu Kapoor right from the time he arrives on the scene and then punishes his newly wed wife for not quite satisfying him optimally in bed. There is a sadistic behaviour on play here and even as you hunt for some tender moments, you realise that lust is all raw in Paurashpur which doesn’t really have place for anything subtle.
No wonder, when Milind Soman comes on the scene, you wonder how his transgender character adds weight to the proceedings bin this 7 part web series, which could well have been a feature film itself, courtesy its playing duration of just under two hours. There is a mission that this character carries as well, and so is the case with Shaheer Sheikh who makes a two scene appearance while leaving the first season at a cliffhanger point, hence promising the next season on the anvil.
As for the first season, it all turns out to be a game of deceit, not just when it comes to grabbing power but also relationships. As can be seen, everyone is practically sleeping around with everyone and there is this particular character who is into men, women and the in-betweeners as well. Well, this could indeed be a first for any series globally. On the other hand women too are well aware of what drives men to their tunes. As a result, some of them take solace in brothels where they are at least respected, unlike the rajamahal where they are only put to abuse.
Talking about abuse, there is a lot of sexual overtone to Paurashpur. Categorised as an erotic historical drama on ALT Balaji and ZEE5 where it is streaming, it pretty much takes a hold no bar approach when it comes to women in skimpy clothes that leave nothing to imagination. An adults-only show, this Shachindra Vyas directed web series does take quite a few bold turns.
That said, there is a lot happening in there and had it been a bit more immersive with added emphasis on the characters, their relations and their motives, then Paurashpur would have emerged as far more cohesive. Here, at certain places you are required to join the dots and since this is set in a period era, many characters also look quite similar to each other due to common costumes and also because of the fact that there are newer names roped in.
What does stand out though is the art design, courtesy Nitin Chandrakant Desai. It is amazing to see the way he has put up the whole rajamahal, and especially impressive is the dome shaped sheeshmahal. With a swimming pool right in there, along with fountains, harams, jacuzzis and stuff alike, Paurashpur does give out a grand vibe. Same holds true for the costumes as well which are straight out of the fantasy world.
There is certain content which is made for a particular target audience which likes their entertainment to be flashy, on your face and unpretentious. Paurashpur is one such offering from the house of Ekta Kapoor which unfolds as pulp fiction from the era gone by while emerging as a deadly account of kingdoms and patriarchy from the 16th century.