When ‘Maharani’, the new show on Sony LIV featuring Huma Qureshi in the central role, was announced, there were rumours about it being a show based on the life of the politician Rabri Devi. Perhaps, those rumours were fuelled by the fact that the story was set in Bihar and had the protagonist playing a chief minister. As you finish watching the show (or even the first episode) you realize that’s not true. The makers might have been inspired from a few prominent political figures but the upright Rani Bharti you see Huma play in the show doesn’t have too many similarities with any female politician one might have heard or read about.
Creator Subhash Kapoor had been a political journalist in the past and the films directed by him too have given one a good overview of the kind of in-depth understanding he has about Indian politics. That knowledge comes in handy for this political thriller which boasts of a well-researched and layered screenplay. That helps the show become a fairly engrossing political drama but doesn’t really contribute towards it being a nail-biting thriller that it aimed to be. Yes, there are some wonderfully thrilling moments including the one which involves an altercation between the police and the members of a notorious gang. But, the graph keeps moving up and down and many a times, an exciting moment is followed by a dull scene that slows down the pace of the narrative.
The first episode starts with a bang. You get to witness an incident that pulls you into the world of the show immediately. As the first episode ends, you look forward to a fast-paced political drama that would also deliver the thrills. Every episode has some high points and by the time you finish watching the last episode, you are quite satisfied as a viewer but also get the feeling that the screenplay, which has several sub-plots interwoven into it, could have been meatier. Subhash, along with director Karan Sharma and co-writer Nandan Singh and Umashankar Singh, chose to tell the story in a non-linear manner. While it is interesting to see the backstory unfold in front of your eyes after witnessing a key event happening in the present-day, there are times when the order of scenes or the constant switch between the past and the present will leave you confused.
There are certain aspects of Rani Bharti’s character are interesting. The way she has been shown as a woman who shows the world that intention trumps knowledge or education is very good. However, her transition from being a woman who is completely oblivious to politics to being someone who decides to take matter into her own hands as the chief minister could have been shown far more interestingly. There are some factual discrepancies as well. We are told that Rani has studied till fourth grade, then why can’t she read or write? If there is a second season of the show in the works, one hopes the graph of Rani’s character is developed in a more thoughtful manner.
Huma Qureshi delivers a stupendous performance as Rani Bharti. Her body language, diction, mannerisms – everything is as authentic as it could get. She understood the nuances of her character very well and that reflects in the way she has portrayed it. Sohum Shah does a good job at playing a self-assured politician. He underplays his character when necessary and his dialogue delivery is quite impressive too. Amit Sial is terrific as Navin Kumar. Kannan Arunachalam has a good personality which helps him portray DGP Siddhant Gautam very effectively. Inaamulhaq leaves an impact as Parvez Alam but goes overboard with the Bengali accent at times. Gauri Shankar Pandey does well but his performance is reminiscent of similar characters played by him in the past. Pramod Pathak is good as the loyal Mishra Ji.
‘Maharani’ is a well-researched and deftly executed show that could have further benefitted from a crisp and more engaging screenplay. The political milieu of Bihar has been portrayed very authentically and even the ones who are not familiar with this world, will not find it very difficult to relate to it owing to the excellent way in which it has been presented. One expects the same level of authenticity and a slightly more engaging script in the second season of the show.