Maharani REVIEW: Huma Qureshi excels in the series that had the potential to be great but it feels like a lost opportunity
Director: Karan Sharma
Cast: Huma Qureshi, Kani Kusruti, Sohum Shah, Pramod Pathak, Inaamulhaq, and Amit Sial
Produced by: Dimple Kharbanda and Naresh Kumar
Bollywood Bubble Rating:
Set in Bihar, Maharani starring Huma Qureshi in the lead role, threads carefully between the fictional and non-fictionality of the story. For those aware of the political scenario in Bihar, Maharani is a lukewarm presentation of the socio-political condition. A seemingly good-to-do Chief Minister appoints his wife as a ‘technical’ CM, without her consent, to be able to keep his position. Does this sound similar? Oh, yes! Even as the makers deny any resemblance to the incident, one can vividly recall Bihar in 1997 when Lalu Prasad Yadav appointed wife Rabri Devi as CM when allegations of corruption were leveled against him. Of course, in Maharani, the politician is bed-ridden after being attacked by the opposition.
Bihar and politics have the potential to keep you hooked from the word ‘go’ however Maharani only manages to scrape on the surface without digging deeper. While the land of the law continues to remain unchanged, in most parts, Director Karan Sharma and the creator for Maharani Subhash Kapoor resorted to use of certain stereotypes, mouthing one-liners and mostly a drag for the 10-episode series. Watching the trailer and the potential the story had, one would have expected a clean and impactful storyline, clever dialogues, and space that allowed conversation.
Huma Qureshi is terrific as Rani Bharti, a woman who is illiterate (not by choice), who only wants to keep her husband and children happy, and is someone strong and has an individual mind. Despite the layers to the character, her arc as Rani Bharti is predictable throughout. There are no surprises or high points to her progression as Rani. We knew that she would resist the decision imposed on her and after a dramatic confrontation with her injured husband would come to accept his decision, the conflict, her speech at the Parliament where she draws an analogy between women managing families in villages to that with politics, everything seemed aspirational yet plain to me. It did not have the intended effect.
Huma does justice to her parts. She is confident and makes Rani believable. She brings in a certain strength and vulnerability to Rani which is endearing. However, the storyline which is more dragged than interesting somehow manages to fail her potential as an actor. Not just Huma, Soham Shah who has been phenomenal in projects he has been part of has very little to chew in Maharani. Kani Kusruti who plays Kaveri, the South Indian babu, and helps Rani settle in is underutilized and largely stereotyped. The series highlights misogyny, the patriarchy, but it gets washed away in the overall storyline.
I liked the scene when Rani counters the Government officials who come to summon her to the Parliament. She rightly asks them if she was even asked before the decision was taken for her. What could have possibly turned into a much larger conversation felt wasted post that. Maharani tries to explore the corruption in the system and politics with Imaanulhaq’s character digging up the dirt and exposing the corruption in the Animal Husbandry Department. Several real-life incidents like the entire village being massacred in the name of politics, horse-trading, characters saying, “Bihar has always triumphed on caste politics” and more do make a point.
Maharani had the potential of bringing forward something great but it feels more like a lost opportunity.
PS: I also found a strange familiarity between the opening theme song of Maharani and the Game of Thrones title song. Is it just me? Do let us know.