There are times when history shows you peculiar scenarios that were never expected to happen. Maharani, the new SonyLIV show created by Subhash Kapoor and directed by Karan Sharma, is one series that takes the catchy element of a historical event and tries to give it a creative interpretation. Maharani is basically a What-if version of the Fodder scam that happened in Bihar, which had a massive role in Lalu Prasad Yadav’s career as a politician. The series has some interestingly placed characters for sure, and the performances are pretty impressive. But as the series approaches the climax, the pattern starts to feel guessable, and hence it becomes a comfortable watch rather than a compelling watch.
The story, set in 1998, starts off with Bheema Bharti, the current CM of Bihar, visiting his village. He requests his wife Rani Bharti to come with him to Patna. Unfortunately, one day the CM got shot during an event, and he goes into an extremely critical health condition. The party decides to find a new CM as his recovery could take a considerable time, and to everyone’s surprise, Bheema suggests the name of his wife Rani as CM. What you see in the series is the consequences of this decision.
The fodder scam, a minority community leader becoming the CM and him making his wife a rubber stamp CM; well, it’s pretty much clear that the inspiration is definitely the life of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi. But if you do a basic google search, you will know that the timeline of events has got changed, and there is too much fiction here. While the rearrangement of the real events made the series look fascinating in certain areas, the overall structure follows the milieu familiar to us through numerous Prakash Jha movies. The political foul plays are predictable, and the series wants to maintain the hero versus villain format, which I feel takes away the surprise element.
If you look at the narrative, you can see that the writing is more interested in surprising Rani Bharti rather than the audience. For example, in the ninth episode, when Rani gets to know about the history of certain rivalries and compromises, only Rani Bharti feels the shock. Karan Sharma had already given the audience a hint that certain characters have another hidden agenda through various scenes and subplots. So for the viewers, it’s just an obvious thing.
There is this factional optimism surrounding the character of Rani. Like I already said, it’s that what-if scenario. They are somewhere looking at the possibility of what if Rabri Devi wasn’t a mere rubber stamp. It’s definitely gripping, and director Shankar would have loved this concept. But the writing can’t go beyond the usual backstabbing tactics we see in all these UP Bihar political mafia stories. That Mirzapur hangover is there in the overall tonality of the series. Even the visual palette has that color-saturated feel which somewhere reminded me of Mirzapur. While the framing and focus looked great on-screen, there were times the lighting had no connection with the emotional pitch of the scene.
I cannot comment about the Bihari accent, but Huma Qureshi’s performance in that accent never felt gimmicky. From the initial stubbornness, hiccups in the early days of governance, and finally being a real player who understood the game, she managed to make Rani Bharti a believable figure on the screen. Sohum Shah’s performance as Bheema Bharti is also really nice. But one thing I cant figure out is that there were reports that he gained 12 kgs and observed interviews of Lalu Prasad Yadav to prepare himself for the role. Anyone who has seen Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav can find nothing common between the original and factional on a cosmetic level. Amit Sial, who is becoming the unavoidable face of Hindi OTT originals, plays the role of the main antagonist and has that grace to pull off the character.
Inaamulhaq as Parvez Alam was one memorable role, and it’s so fascinating to see Mr. Haq transforming utterly for a role. Atul Tiwari plays a crucial role as the governor. Vineeth Kumar is playing the Shakuni of this political Mahabharat. Kani Kusruti, as the south Indian IAS officer, was fine, and so was Mr. Pramod Pathak as Mishra. Mohammed Ashiq Hussain, who played the role of Prem Kumar in the series, is sure to get some meaty parts in the future.
Maharani has some really nice performances and an interesting premise. Where it falters is in creating a narrative that is gripping at regular intervals of time. For a series with ten episodes, each with an average duration of 45 minutes, the kind of engagement it offers is appreciable but needed more gist. The zest with which we were introduced to the political power game was not consistent in the case of Maharani.
For a series with ten episodes, each with an average duration of 45 minutes, the kind of engagement it offers is appreciable but needed more gist.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended