The Empire Review: A one time watch, the historical drama falls short of expectations
Cast: Kunal Kapoor, Dino Morea, Shabana Azmi, Drashti Dhami, Aditya Seal, Sahher Bambba, Rahul Dev,
Imaad Shah, Toranj Kayvon.
Director: Mitakshara Kumar
Bubble movie rating: 3 stars
First up, let’s get this out of our minds, The Empire is not India’s Game of Thrones. It is not. A few scenes might perhaps remind of it but apart from that, The Empire is not nearly as smartly written as GoT. Based on a book by Alex Rutherford’s historical fiction novel, Empire of the Moghul: Raiders from the North, the book basically chronicles the rise and fall of Babur, the first ruler of Mughal Empire.
When I started watching The Empire, I had huge expectations. Blame it on the marketing or the fact that it was produced by a massive OTT platform, I assumed the CGI and VFX work would be decent if not great. But alas, the biggest disappointment for me was the poor CGI work. The sets were believable and done aesthetically in most parts. No major complaint in the costume department either. But the poor use of graphics and lacklustre way of storytelling did make it a tiring watch by the end.
The Empire begins with a young Barbur being forced to take the throne after his father and the then king of Ferghana passes away in a tragic way. Babur, played by Kunal Kapoor, is shown to be a kind-hearted, soft man who doesn’t flinch to use his sword in the battlefield. He is ready to forego his throne and kingship for his family but at the same time, is ready to wage a war to protect his sister Khanzada (played by Drashti Dhami). From Ferghana to Samarkand to Kabul and then becoming the King in Hindustan, Babur’s tyrst with rulers is spread across 8 episodes. The episodes aren’t necessarily long but feels a little stretched by the end. There are elements of song and dance added in between to show a celebratory mood but I found it unnecessary. We could definitely do without it.
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Dino Morea plays Shabiani Khan, Babur’s archnemisis. Dino attempts to bring his own madness to Shabiani but the one-dimensional direction doesn’t leave us wowed. He is honest to his character but there is just too many dialogues throughout the series with the writer not allowing even the slightest space left for the characters to perform through their body, perhaps! However, what really left me astonished is though the timeline moves forward by almost 18-20 years in separate ways, Kunal as Babur doesn’t she a bit. It really takes some celestial powers to not have a strand of grey hair while you are on your deathbed! As Babur, Kunal does a decent job. But yet again, the inability of the writer to evoke emotions through dialogues leaves us with lesser impact. A lot of drama is happening but we don’t flinch even a bit, because it feels too heavy on words.
Shabana Azmi is perhaps that one person who steals every frame she is in. She is impeccable with her delivery, pitch and presence in itself. Her aura as Asian Begum is unmatched. Drashti Dhami makes her debut on OTT and plays Babur’s sister Khanzada. There is definitely room for her to improve but she does appear to be the second-best thing. Her character has more arch yet somehow the automated dialogues make it look slightly flat.
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Rahul Dev is phenomenal. Despite very little to do as Wazir Khan but he ends up delivering one of the finest performances as a soldier on the battlefield.
If you are someone who is a slight bit interested in history, The Empire can be a one time watch.