Queen: Fitfully tracking Jayalalitha’s life

Webseries: Queen

Cast: Ramya Krishnan, Anikha, Anjana, Sonia Agarwal, Indrajith Skumaran, Vivek Rajagopal

Director: Prasath Murugesan and Gautam Vasudev Menon

Rating: * * 1/2

Prasath Murugesan and Gautam Vasudev Menon share the directorial honours for Season 1 of Queen, adapted from The Queen, authored by Anita Sivakumaran, a book based on true facts that align with what we know of former Heroine and Political Icon, Jayalalitha’s life (even though the makers have refused to acknowledge it publicly). There are of course other milestones of Jayalalitha’s life neatly camouflaged here – Nadodi Mannan is Nadodi Vendhan, Sasikala Natrajan is Suryakala Dhanraj, Church Park School is St Louis Park and MGR is GMR in the film… and there’s many more such cover-ups masquerading as original story elements.

This web series playing on MX Player begins with that famous Simi Garewal (and she is not called that here but played by Lilette Dubey in signature Simi style) interview of Jayalalitha, on her TV show and cuts back into the past where the ace convent student, progeny of a bit-part actress mother, is forced to give up her education to keep the home fires burning. Season 1 of the series comprises of 11 episodes, chronicling the life of Shakthi Seshadri from the age of 14 to 40.

The series covers different aspects f her life, career, loves and ambitions and the actresses playing the younger Shakthi Seshadri (Anikha & Anjana) do far more justice to their roles than Ramya Krishnan (the adult version) who, though garbed in Jayalalitha’s typical attire and wearing the same sort of beatific expression, looks a little too put on to be convincing.

From a state topper in school, a caring friend, an adulated actress, paramour of Tamil film Industry’s biggest icon to becoming a politician, there’s quite a bit of drama here but most of it seems rather trivial and fails to bring out the kind of gutsy grit one would expect from such a recreation and one of the most sought-after politicians in the state. The attempt to mix in Tamil with English dialogue dampens the interest further.

Through the series we are expected to believe in the lead character’s trying childhood experiences (which don’t seem all that turbulent given the manner in which it is portrayed). The young Shakthi is depicted as someone who excels in everything be it studies or extra-curricular activities and is the pride of her school.

Her insecurities as a result seem trivial here and the so called resilience looks like a make over rather than ingrained steel. Sonia Agarwal as Shakthi’s bit-part actress mother is competent and plays her difficult part with empathy.

Indrajith Sukumaran as GMR is exceptional as he convincingly pulls off the role of a Svengali who micro-manages the people close to him in order to benefit the most from it. Vivek Rajagopal’s Pradeepan is the typical narrow-minded villain. Reshma Ghatala, the creator and writer of the series scripts a rather straightforward telling where the nuances get enmeshed though urban legends and nostalgic public memory. You really need to be fairly familiar with Jayalalitha’s story to be able to understand the gravity of what she achieved in her lifetime. This serial is merely a caricature of that well lived life!


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