Masala,’ murder and mystery wrapped in a never-ending quest for power in 1990s’ Bihar—not only does the second innings of Maharani have all the makings of a quintessential political potboiler, but is also leagues better than its predecessor. Huma Qureshi, aka Rani Bharti, finally sheds her placeholder tag to emerge as queen bee—and there is never a dull moment.
After an insipid portrayal of Bihar’s political underbelly in season one, creator Subhash Kapoor has finally moved beyond scratching the surface. While the first season (in a very typical depiction) traces her rise from an uneducated ‘angoothachaap’ housewife to Bihar chief minister, Maharani 2—now streaming on Sony Liv—finally peels off the many layers of the truly complex character that is Rani Bharti.
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The show picks up where it left off, but there are no hazy transitions. For context, towards the end of season one, Rani Bharti exposes the corrupt nexus operating from within her party—one led by her husband, former chief minister Bheema Bharti (Sohum Shah). As Rani wrests control from Bheema, the latter goes all out to hurt her prospects. And needless to say, Kapoor does a fantastic job of capturing the power tussle this season.
While Maharani 2 mainly explores Rani’s transition from husband-worshipping political pawn to administrative mastermind, Kapoor and director Ravindra Gautam make sure to give every central character their time under the sun. From Bheema to ‘upper caste’ politico Naveen Kumar (Amit Sial) and allegiance-shifting ‘Kaala Nag’ (Vineet Kumar), the show does a great job of exploring the disturbing, rather sinister traits of its protagonists.
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Near perfect on all fronts
Mukesh Chhabra gets full marks for picking an impeccable cast. Of course, everyone plays their part to perfection, but it is Huma Qureshi who truly shines. With her on-point Bhojpuri and subtle-yet-powerful expressions, Qureshi sure knows how to hold the viewer’s attention.
“As for my performance, I think I just got Huma out of the way. To do justice to Rani, I had to set aside my worldview or preferences. Right from the quality of lipstick used and the way it was applied, to the draping of the sari, I tried to imbibe the details,” Qureshi told Moneycontrol.
Writers Nandan Singh and Umashankar Singh also deserve credit for paying attention to historical detail. From the 1999 Jharkhand agitation to the struggle for reservation and rampant communalism, the creators go all out to explore the nitty-gritty of Bihar politics, adding more colour to an intensely dramatic plot.
However, the story seems incomplete without a chilling, compelling score—a feat composer Rohit Sharma easily achieves. While Sharma has been lauded for composing soul-stirring tracks for critical and commercial hits like The Kashmir Files and Ship of Theseus, he calls Maharani his “best project” so far.
The only area where Maharani falters is cinematography. Anup Singh tries his best but falls short of bringing out the essence of small-town Bihar. Yes, we see oodles of ‘orange sindoor’ and portrayals of ‘Chatth Pooja’ and ‘Teej’ with a generous sprinkle of mob violence, but something feels amiss. Maybe the genuineness of it all? Whatever the reason, some tightening is in order for season three.
Maharani 2 is no Paatal Lok or Mirzapur; but it sure packs a punch, and you must watch to experience Huma Qureshi in her full glory.