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Queen Is A Befitting Though Self-Limited Homage To Jayalalitha

Queen(MX Player, 11 Episodes)

Starring: Ramya  Krishnnan,Anikha Surendran, Anjana Jaiprakash, Sonia Aggarwal, Indrajit Sukhumaran

Directed by  Gautham Vasudev Menon,Prasath Murugesan

Rating: ***(a stars)

Having washed their hands off  all claims to  being a Jayalalitha bio-pic, this webseries  , with as many dips curves  highs  and lows as  the real character’s life, can safely be  assumed to take some interesting flights of fancy, even while putting on screen  enough meat from the  true mart to keep the consumer sniffing  and admiring the  offering on display.

Queen  opens with Lilette Dubey doing a  Rendezvous  With Jayalalitha styled  interview with  an actress-turned-politician named Shakti Seshadri.

As …errrr, Shakti , Ramya Krishnan hits the right notes from the  outset.  She conveys  all the gravitas dignity  and  obstinacy  of  the original  without trying  look like the lady who lorded over  Tamil hearts and  minds for decades.

The  series has  some terrific  moments from the protagonist’s  childhood where  little Shakti(played  beautifully  by  Anikha Surendran)’s troubled relationship with her  mother is  captured in scenes that convey  plenty without  tripping over its own eagerness  to satiate  the audiences’ curiosity  about what really happened in Shakti’s  childhood. The characters and  forces that contributed  to the  making of the formidable ‘Amma’  are all here in the series, though many of  the character are  frightfully freed  of nuance. They nonetheless  constitute a  vivid slide-show  into the  shadowplay  of myth  and reality exploring  the  woman behind  the iron mask.

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In the earlier episodes I  specially loved one lengthy mother-daughter bonding scene on a beach  where  Shakti’s  young  mother(played  every  interestingly by  Sonia Aggarwal) tried to  explain to  Shakti why further education is  no more possible for  the girl and why she must take up acting to save  the family from penury.

The sequence ends with  the  determined  girl sneering, “Forget it, this mother-drama  never suited  us anyway.”

I  looked for  more such  warm illuminating moments  in the  series,  but  found it  to be mostly  concerned in getting the period ambience  and  the protagonist’s  surroundings right without exploring her relationships  in  too much detail. This is  not a  bad thing, considering the idea behind the series seems  to be to humanize  the  demi-goddess politician without showing her in a negative light.

Yes, ‘Shakti’ is  human after all. But not in the way we are .

 The contribution of MG Ramachandran in  shaping the destiny and personality  of  Jayalalitha is  given substantial space. MGR(played by  Indrajit Sukhumaran) here becomes GMR(!!!). This  vital chunk of  the  protagonist’s life is among  the weakest in the  plot.  As ‘GMR’ turns into an over-possessive mentor and  lover,  the series almost ends up demonizing his character.

Some sections such as  the one where Shakti’s  brother  is shown a drug addict,are mawkish and melodramatic. Early in  her career  as a leading lady  Shakti’s romance with  the director of her Telugu film is conveyed with  a gentle  hand. But  the  relationship is affected  by  the lack of  chemistry between the  young  Shakti(played by Anjana  Jaiprakash) and the director.Their long embrace  accompanied by schmaltzy music plays out  like a scene from one of  Jayalalitha’s films.

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Incidentally  the first time when they get close during the outdoor shooting Shakti is seen  reading John Le Carre(pronounced  ‘John Le Car’ by the  Telugu  director) . Throughout she is  shown reading English –language novels  to convey her intellectual superiority  to the world she  inhabits.In fact knowingly or not, Shakti  often comes across as a snob  harbouring  a bloated sense  of self that’s  humorously shown to be punctured by director  C V Sridhar(played  nicely  by Gautham Menon  co-director of the series).

Elsewhere when  MGR ,now CM of Tamil Nadu, pays Shakti a visit she  keeps him waiting as she takes her  time  getting ready .Her languorous walk from her bedroom to the living room is proof of  Madame’s growing arrogance. Or it  it an indication of  the leisurely space afforded to the  director on the digital platform?We will  never know.

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