A historical fiction ‘ The Empire’ is based on a novel series called ‘Empire of the Mogul’ written by Alex Rutherford. It is streaming on Hotstar, and everything about this series is going to either take you by surprise or keep you confused. Both ways, the series will stir some emotions in you.
Filmmaker Nikhil Advani has done an above-average job at putting forth historical facts and has tried his best to create something visually different and extremely dramatic. For any history enthusiast, the show is a must-watch! However, the first three episodes fail to hold a grip but soon after, the third episode. One can wrap their heads around the melodramatic series of events that this show highlights. One can learn a lot about the Mughal Empire.
Most certainly, history enthusiasts might still wait and bear the first three episodes. Anyone who is not a great fan of history might consider not sitting through them as the show loses its pace with the cliché dialogues and prolonged episodes of music and dance. It consists of eight episodes broken down into 35 minutes to 50 minutes. And in this short duration, the show fails to narrate the story of the Mughal emperor Babur from the age of 14 to the age of 47 with accurate facts, which makes the show Fragmented at its core. Hence, the show obnoxiously covers the rise and fall of the empire, starting from the generation of Babur and ending at the generation of Aurangzeb.
The Making of the show and the Characters
Director Mitakshara Kumar and writer Bhavani Iyer went above and beyond to romanticize the already configured image of Mughals in Indian cinema and turn it around as chapters of history explaining how and when the empire flourished. The show accounts how brutal battles were normal, how exploiting women and making them participate in wars was okay, and how marriages were based on nothing but politics. Their effort and imagination make the show bearable.
Babur is among modern India’s most hated figures. He is known as the emperor with foibles. His character has always been controversial and has been in the news. The show based on his story is intriguing and one of the hottest topics of Indian cinema.
The first episode starts with the protagonist, Babur, being a boy of 14. He is portrayed as having two personalities, one that brings out his sensitive and vulnerable side and the other that can eat a human alive if and when it is for power. He’s seen internally conflicted. You witness Kunal Kapoor, who is playing Babur in a war-like situation; it’s no less than a blood bath in his kingdom. His acting is commendable and makes the character come to life in its most authentic and raw form. Actors like Imaad Shah, Rahul Dev, Shabana Azmi give their best performances, fitting perfectly in each role assigned to them.
Shabana Azmi is seen playing Babur’s grandmother Esan Dawlat. Her character comes off as an independent woman striving to survive in a rather patriarchal world. She fights stereotypes and holds her ground with her strong values. Her character in the show leaves an impact on the audience. Not to mention, her acting skills and costumes are worth all the praises in the world.
Dhrashti Dhami, who was seen mostly in Daily soaps, does a tremendous job at fitting in her role of Babur’s sister. It almost feels like the role was made for her. She is portrayed as someone as obsessive about the throne as Babur. Other important characters include Sahher Bamba and Toranj Kavyon, who play the role of Babur’s Wives blended perfectly into their roles as well.
Women in the show are portrayed as extremely interesting as they all reflect the complexity of human emotions. Women in the show are seen owning the stage by their charming personalities and tricks. They control the remote of all the events that take place. The female leads ace the art of backroom politics and manipulation in the show. All of them appear strong and fierce.
Dino Morea’s role as Uzbek leader of Muhammad Shaybani Khan was spine-chilling. He played the character as if he understood the mindset of the Uzbek. He just transformed himself into a brutal, bad guy consumed entirely by himself for power and flesh. The show may not be consistently great, but the performances sure were.
The story of Mughals chaotically establishing themselves in the Indian subcontinent sure is the heart, and the of the show and everything about the uneventful journey is woven into an experience that you may like or dislike but definitely can’t ignore.
The sets and visuals of the show are aesthetically pleasing and crafted with top-notch technology. Everything about the sets and costumes is gorgeous. The cinematography is fine and it somewhat matches the level of Sanjay Leela Bhansali films. It is perhaps a grand show and successfully established the period that it belonged to. Only that somewhere deep down, it hits the wrong strings, and that’s when you feel it could have been made better.
Controversial but brave
The show has instigated some bad reviews on Twitter, and other social media platforms as some viewers believe that the show glorifies Babur. Hence, making a series on his life is a brave act in itself. However, the series has been accused of hyping up the controversial emperor.
Considering art is subjective, different opinions are coming in from different people, and this controversy has taken the internet by storm. #UninstallHotstar has been trending, and the audience is going furious. What about you? What are your opinions on the show?