If the first season of Maharani was rooted in how Rabri Devi became the most left-field politician ever, season 2 includes many more real-life parallels. However much the writers and actors try and deny the basis in reality, Maharani is a show that draws from real incidents and creates some gripping and engaging drama around them. It is one thing to take real incidents but to create a watchable, unpredictable, and thrilling drama from them takes some work. And Subhash Kapoor’s Maharani achieves that, largely due to the smart writing, and aided by some exemplary performances. Also read: Maharani season 2 trailer: Huma Qureshi vows to tackle goons in ‘new Bihar’
Maharani 2 sees Bihar chief minister Rani Bharti (Huma Qureshi) face opposition not just from political rival Naveen Kumar (Amit Sial) but also from her husband-turned-foe Bhima Bharti (Sohum Shah). The story is of how this tripartite struggle unfolds amidst dramas about reservation, demand for a separate Jharkhand state, and a harrowing rape and murder that shocks both Rani and Bihar. There are references to the infamous Shilpi-Gautam murder, the Rajeev Goswami self-immolation episode, and a commentary on caste and religion as political tools.
These are sensitive issues and needed to be dealt with intelligently to be depicted on screen sensitively. The writers manage that largely, barring a few lapses of course. I do have a problem with the rather graphic and distasteful depiction of sexual assault in the show. You can convey the brutality of a crime without actually showing it as Delhi Crime has proved. Web series often take more liberties than films but playing something for shock value isn’t always the smartest choice. What is truly amazing is how well the creators have woven these incidents into the fabric of the show so that they never feel out of place.
There are shortcomings, of course. The show descends into sermonising by the end, with characters indulging in long monologues about morality, vengeance, and everything under the sun. These scenes are reminiscent of political speeches from the 90s and frankly nothing we haven’t seen countless times before. The writers could have stuck to being subtle, which worked for them in the first half of the season. But despite the over-the-top lines, the actors deliver them well, which is the saving grace for the show.
Maharani 2 is a show that grows on you. It starts out slow and a tad bit predictable. The set up is not unique, the twists are a bit transparent, and some of the reveals not as shocking. But if you can watch past the first 2-3 episodes, the show improves and dramatically so. The dialogue is the biggest draw for me. How the writing blends Bihari vernacular idioms and sayings with modern political commentary is praiseworthy.
And helping it all are the performances by the leads. Huma Qureshi gets lost in Rani Bharti so easily and effortlessly that you will struggle to notice the actor over the character. Her growth in confidence is evident and Huma has captured the character’s transformation beautifully. Sohum Shah as former CM Bhima Bharti is one of the highlights of the show. Having been given a character that has so many layers and such depth, Sohum has done well, making the character grey, yet likable. Amit Sial is by now a veteran of OTT and he leaves his mark here as well. And they are aided by a more than competent support cast, each of whom seem perfectly cast. Now whether that’s good casting or great acting, I’ll leave it up to you.
Maharani is by no means a perfect show. It has its flaws, which are quite noticeable too. But it also has heart, and a clear vision, which most Indian OTT shows lack these day. Maharani never wavers from its original vision of being the story of Rani Bharti, the idealist politician. Yes, there are stereotypes, predictable plotlines, and even the odd melodrama. But despite that, Maharani is among the better political shows in Hindi OTT space. Maybe that’s an indictment of the scene in itself but one can’t fault Maharani for being better than others.
Series: Maharani 2
Creator: Subhash Kapoor
Cast: Huma Qureshi, Sohum Shah, Amit Sial, Pramod Pathak, Anuja Sathe, Kani Kusruti, Vineet Kumar, Atul Tiwari