Cast: Huma Qureshi, Sohum Shah, Amit Sial
Creator: Subhash Kapoor
Subhash Kapoor tried his hand at a political story with a definitive caste angle in Madam Chief Minister earlier this year, but that turned out to be a futile attempt. Not only because of a blousy script but also due to the tone-deaf treatment of its Dalit protagonist. He has made the same mistake in SonyLiv’s Maharani, the story involving a backward caste woman Rani Bharti (Huma Qureshi) turning the political tide in her favour in a male-dominated world. The show is nothing more than another ‘masala’ cocktail in which every politician is a devil. Kapoor should really be thankful to Huma Qureshi and Sohum Shah, the lead pair, for bringing certain nuances to an otherwise bland story.
Rani becomes the Chief Minister of Bihar in the late ‘90s after her husband, the sitting CM Bheema Bharti (Sohum Shah), gets hospitalised following an assassination attempt. She is surrounded by political opportunists, all males except one female who sleeps her way to a minister’s job. Rani’s reluctance to come out of her kitchen is the biggest hindrance to her sudden political placement. How she survives amid the jackals sets the rest of the plot in motion.
The references to certain politicians are obvious but more than empathy, they reek of mockery. It is never about the making of a politician a la Rabri Devi, or how she started losing ground with a dramatic surge in caste-related violence. The opposition leader Naveen Kumar (Amit Sial) is as conniving as anybody else. What the makers have completely forgotten is the role of the basic unit of any democracy- the public. That too of a politically hypersensitive state like Bihar.
Kapoor has taken some defined stance though, especially when it comes to showing the clashes between the radical left and private militia of the landlords. But somehow all this seems forced. They don’t contribute to the natural progression of a story which should also have probed the influence of OBC leaders on the poor and marginalised.
Qureshi and Shah, in particular, have shown the willingness to get to the human side of the politicians. There is a scene where Shah contemplates pushing Qureshi’s name for CM’s post. It uncovers the layers of prejudices a woman faces in various circumstances. However, such scenes are rare, and Maharani mostly remains a Mirzapur-like twisted saga. Maybe that was the intention.
This write-up is based on the first seven episodes provided for the review purpose, and I can only hope for the rest three episodes to add some nuances. If you have an appetite for heavy-duty oneliners and dramatic entries then Maharani might be the show you’re looking for.