Maharani 3 Review: Lost Focus

Huma Qureshi’s Rani Bharti was the ace in the pack, but everything that she does this season smacks more of script conveniences than careful plotting, observes Deepa Gahlot.

When the political-cum-domestic drama, Maharani, created by Subhash Kapoor, first streamed, it confirmed the depth of corruption and casteism in Bihar, with the lead characters obviously based on Lalu Prasad Yadav and his uneducated wife Rabri Devi.

In the show, a rural housewife Rani Bharati (Huma Qureshi), content with looking after the home and three kids, while her husband Bheema Bharti (Suhum Shah) rules the state, is pushed into the forefront to hold the CM’s chair while her husband is injured.

Initially, she is nervous and out of place but soon, she discovers she can ‘play politics’ just as well as the men, and those who underestimated her are in for a shock.

That includes Bheema, whom she sends to jail over a fodder scam. Bheema has a strong base of followers and loyalists, many with criminal records, and runs his political empire from the comfort of an air-conditioned cell.

Season 2 was an improvement, as it allowed Rani to wrest more power from the party members who disrespect her.

The trigger comes in the form of the rape and murder of a young woman by Dulari Yadav (Sukumar Tudu), who is so powerful in his constituency that the police are unable to arrest him. That, and the bifurcation of the state with the formation of Jharkhand, required much skulduggery.

When mocked for her weakness, Rani Bharti decides to take on her husband’s coterie head on, showing that her intention of cleaning up the ‘jungle raj’ of the state trumps everything else, which she does with the help of her Malayali associate Kaveri (Kani Kusruti).

The story was told in flashback with Rani Bharti being interrogated by a committee led by Michael Ekka (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) for complicity in her husband’s murder.

Season 3, directed by Saurabh Bhave, loses focus and goes into the murky operations of the booze mafia.

The current chief minister, Naveen Kumar (Amit Sial), has imposed prohibition in the state (like real life CM Nitish Kumar) but the illegal trade goes on, with bribes being paid to cops and ministers, right up to Naveen Kumar himself.

The true incident of deaths by consumption of spurious liquor is also included in the series.

The operation of the alcohol brewers and smugglers, run alongside Rani’s continuing stay in jail — why she refuses bail for over three years is explained later — and her subtle pulling of strings to punish the evil men responsible for her husband’s murder (that includes the lecherous Gauri Pandey (Vineet Kumar) and his shady gang).

She has on her side, Kaveri, who is like a shadow, and the unusually devoted Mishra (Pramod Pathak), who babysits her kids while she studies for board exams in prison.

The track of Rani Bharti’s revenge comes up much too late in the show, most of which is taken up by the political machinations of Naveen Kumar and his band of no-good cohorts.

Kirti (Anuja Sathe) returns from the last season, but her actual purpose remains unclear.

The writers Kapoor and Nandan Singh needlessly complicate the plot, give extended footage to secondary characters, while Rani plots away, turning as Machiavellian as her dead husband and Naveen Kumar.

When the director feels the need to show the softer, maternal side to Rani, the kids are trotted out, or she makes pots of halwa.

Crooked politicians and corrupt cops are such hackneyed characters that unless there is a fresh or interesting angle to their constant treachery, there is nothing novel to hold the audience.

Booze smuggling and the tricks of that trade don’t cut it.

The anything-goes, jungle lawlessness of Bihar is frankly unwatchable now.

Rani Bharti was the ace in the pack, but everything that she does in this season smacks more of script conveniences — she wants someone dead, and it’s easily done! — than careful plotting.

Huma Qureshi still brings some conviction to her role, and Amit Sial personifies the glib, shape-shifting politician.

The other actors, who fit their parts, do not add anything to a series that stumbles through a maze of its own making.

Maharani 3 streams on SonyLIV.

Maharani 3 Review Rediff Rating: