Discard: Dharmendra, Naseeruddin Shah, Aditi Rao Hydari, Aashim Gulati
Director: Ronald Scalpello
Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)
Freewheeling historical fiction meets twisted family drama in Taj: Divided by Blood, a Zee5 series produced by Mumbai-based Contiloe Pictures. The web of Indo-British co-production is vast, and the breadth of the narrative spans several decades of Emperor Akbar’s nearly 50-year reign. But the series isn’t quite the epic it aspires to be.
The 10-episode show is about war, bloodshed, palace intrigue, shadowy conspiracies, infighting and forbidden love that turns father against son. The plot isn’t lacking in genuine dramatic potential – to be fair, a significant proportion of it is realized – but the series’ overall impact is undermined by a preponderance of passages that deliver far less than they promise. .
Taj: Divided by love never gets bored, but he could have done with a little more weight. It depicts Emperor Akbar as a man and ruler navigating the lures and pressures of his heavy royal duties, fulfilling his fatherly responsibilities, and dealing with his wives.
William Borthwick and Simon Fantauzzo’s script fully features the Emperor’s three sons but doesn’t do full justice to the women in his life. The queens are played by Zarina Wahab, Sandhya Mridul and Padma Damodaran.
All three take advantage of the limited opportunities they have to make their presence felt. Wahab is particularly underutilized. In any case, the focus isn’t on them as much as it is on Aditi Rao Hydari as the unfortunate Anarkali – a tragic, melancholy, caged woman. Hydari is up to the challenge. She is bright even if she too could have been satisfied with a little more play.
Considering the fate of the female characters in this series, it would seem that this is not a realm for women. One is held captive against his will, a host of others are forced into marriages of convenience and are doomed to yearn for love in silence, and the Emperor’s queens struggle to make their voices heard. their voice. In the universe dominated by men who Taj: Divided by Blood happens, a degree of monotony and predictability is inevitable.
Embodied with confidence and empathy by Naseeruddin Shah, Emperor Akbar is a man who responds to conflicting impulses – he often oscillates between acts of wisdom and benevolence and traits of despotism. She is a figure prone to actions and decisions that make things worse than they already are.
The Emperor is a guardian of justice, a defender of secularism, a very married man and the father of three young men who have nothing in common in terms of temperament. The sons test his patience the most – and his insight. Advisors like Birbal (Subodh Bhave), Man Singh (Digambar Prasad) and Abul Fazl (Pankaj Saraswat) stepped in to show him the way forward with varying degrees of success.
The Emperor has a secret hidden in a prison that no one else has access to. When the cat is out of the bag, it collides with his eldest son, Prince Salim (Aashim Gulati), a young man addicted to wine and women. His concubines keep him far too busy to worry about what the future holds for the kingdom. Salim isn’t the only son the Emperor is trying to tame.
The series also struggles with inconsistent pacing and drawn-out stretches that seem a little too beating around the bush. Taj: Divided by Blood is of course more fiction than history, a fact acknowledged by a “story” credit to Anand Neelakantan and Christopher Butera. The show works best when the action is limited to palace interiors and family dynamics.
Akbar’s harem is manned by three queens – Salima (Zarina Wahab), Ruqaiya (Padma Damodaran), and Jodha (Sandhya Mridul), who is understandably keen to see her son, Akbar’s firstborn, Salim, as the next mughal badshah. Obstacles in the way generate the conflicts that Salim and the rest of the palace face.
Taj: Divided by Blood focuses on the struggle between the brothers and their cohorts over who will succeed the emperor, who, in turn, antagonizes conservative elements in his kingdom and outside by introducing the Din-i-Ilahia religion that recognizes all creeds and aims to annihilate sectarian hatred and promote humanity and harmony.
Episode 2 of Taj: Divided by Blood is devoted almost entirely to a skirmish in Kabul between the Mughal army and a band of rebels led by Emperor Akbar’s half-brother, Mirza Hakim (Rahul Bose). The battle scenes, mounted on an epic scale and designed to present war at its most gruesome, turn out to be rather mechanical and uninspiring.
The decision upsets the already fragile balance of the kingdom. The situation is aggravated by the fact that none of Akbar’s sons are yet ready to be emperor. Self-centered Salim is busy with his concubines. The middle son, Murad (Taha Shah Badusshah), is too brash and impulsive. The youngest, Daniyal (Shubham Kumar Mehra), is a devout soul who is too gentle and sensitive to have any real chance of stepping into his father’s shoes.
Salim is struck at first sight by Anarkali. The affair means trouble. Murad, always on the alert, is prone to acts of defiance that keep the Emperor on his toes. And Daniyal, advised by the leader of the ulama, stumbles upon a truth about himself and a mother he has never seen and who pushes him down a slippery slope.
Several of the show’s main technicians are English – director Ron Scalpello, cinematographer Simon Temple and music composer Ian Arber.
Taj: Divided by Blood is made with care. Parts of the show are informed with enough drama and intrigue to make things better. However, he often feels a tense and repetitive touch. It is neither Mughal-e-Azam neither Game Of Thrones.
That’s not to say the show doesn’t have its moments. It’s reasonably engrossing, especially as it explores the sibling tensions that simmer after the emperor decides that the successor to the Mughal throne will not be his firstborn, but the son with the greatest merit.
While the responsibility of holding the show together inevitably falls on Naseeruddin Shah, the three actors in the roles of the sons – Aashim Gulati, Taha Shah Badussha and Shubham Kumar Mehra – bring enough ti to the table not to be overshadowed by a thespian to his favorite .
Its ambitions are high and the execution is competent but Taj: Divided by Blood little genuine shine.
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