Bollywood’s Huma Qureshi gets political in OTT series Maharani
Streaming show already proving a hit
Maharani sees actress Huma Qureshi play the based-on-real-life role of Rani Bharti, a politician’s wife who is hurled into her husband’s turbulent world when he picks her as his successor. Grappling with corruption, in a world of ‘kings’, Rani is sent out to prove her worth as the ‘Maharani’ or ‘queen’. Created by Subhash Kapoor, the show features a stellar cast alongside Qureshi including Sohum Shah, Amit Sial, Vineet Kumar and Harish Khanna.
The series revolves around the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Rani’s rise to power as she is sworn in as the Chief Minister of her home state overnight. She is inexperienced yet tactical, docile yet defiant, shy yet strong, and hesitant but receptive. Soon, she finds herself swimming in a sea rife with manipulative and power-hungry people characters. Maharani, at its heart, is much less a story of triumph, and more a searing look into the systemic oppression of women in society despite their indomitable spirit. Streaming on SonyLIV right now, here’s what Huma had to say.
What attracted you to the project?
It was during the last lockdown when I was offered this series and I was very happy as well as surprised when it came to me. To play Rani Bharti was a big challenge. She is absolutely opposite to how I am and that was the exciting part. I try not to repeat myself. By the time my career ends I want people to look at my filmography and say that I have done different roles and that was one of the big reasons that convinced me to take up this one. I feel, writers and creators should also come with up with more well-rounded parts for female protagonists like Rani Bharti.
Would you say Rani's journey is similar to that of an actor? Someone chooses you for a part, and your life changes overnight. What would you say was that moment for you and how did it feel?
It could be said her journey is similar to that of an actor. I think the moment in my life that changed everything was the decision to move from Delhi to Bombay. I think that was a really big turning point for me in my life, like how my life was before that and after are completely diametrically opposite realities.
Do you ever feel there is a hesitation to base a show on politics, even if it is a fictional account of real events? Are you a politically engaged person?
I'm not a politically engaged person. I believe in human rights, and I think that is fairly simple and common to understand. I worked with an organisation called Save the Children in the past. Because of the current situation in India, we started a fundraiser together. We have pledged to set up a hospital facility in Delhi. The location has been chosen and about 70 oxygen concentrators have been sent over there as part of a larger plan. That's very, very close to my heart.
What were your impressions of the real Rani and her career overall?
For me, the most important thing about playing Rani was to convey that she is not dumb. She works in the field, she takes care of the cattle, the farm; that is her world. She has never been to school and has very limited access to anything and yet she is smart. It is sad and unfortunate that if someone doesn’t know English people think he or she is not bright. That is a misconception. The idea was to shatter that image and to fight the patriarchy through Rani Bharti. She is uneducated, but she has her own wisdom: native wisdom of how things work in a village and that she applies to a larger political arena. That was really very exciting and something new that we had not tried before in cinema.
Did you have to film any scenes during Covid or was it completed before? How was the experience?
We finished Army of the Dead at the end of 2019, but the post-production was delayed due to Covid-19. We shot Maharani last year in between lockdowns. At the end of 2020, we shot in Bhopal, Mumbai, and Jammu. It was a miracle to shoot from inside the bio-bubble. So, we shot differently but both the projects are releasing together.