After the success of Maharani, Huma Qureshi, Sohum Shah, Amit Sial and others return for the second season of the political drama. At the end of season one, the battle-lines were drawn between Rani Bharti (Qureshi), the homemaker and wife who overcame her naivete and became a formidable leader, and her husband Bheema (Shah), the ailing and erstwhile chief minister of Bihar.
Created by Subhash Kapoor and directed by Ravindra Gautam, Maharani 2 (to stream from August 25, 2022, on SonyLIV), sees Rani Bharti return as chief minister of Bihar. But this time not only does she have to contend with her political opponent Naveen Kumar (Sial), but also her husband who is out of jail and ready to reclaim the seat of power.
In a video interview, lead actors Qureshi, Shah and Sial spoke about the show and what viewers can expect from the new season:
Your performance garnered a great deal of appreciation. For you, what do you think sets this show apart?
Rani Bharti is one of the most well-rounded characters I have ever done. She is a hero and it’s also a classic underdog story of a common woman rising to the highest office and changing things for the greater good. She's very real and rooted in her traditions, culture and milieu. She's not educated but has a lot of native wisdom and curiosity. By asking a lot of questions, she learns a lot. The show took the audience along on this journey of learning, discovery and her rise to power. At the end of season one, she sent her husband to jail. Every time someone tried to pull her down, the audience rooted for her.
As for my performance, I think I just got Huma out of the way. To do justice to Rani, I had to set aside my world view or preferences. Right from the quality of lipstick used and the way it was applied, to the draping of the sari, I tried to imbibe the details. I also worked on the language because she speaks in Bihari in a certain way. I loved Rani’s fire and that she is such a staunch feminist without knowing the word ‘feminism’.
What happens now that she has shaken up the establishment?
Bheema Bharti is seething and wants to reclaim his power. At the same time there are others who also want to stake a claim to power. Rani is getting more isolated and it's becoming tougher for her to retain power. The first 10 minutes of the second season are the crux of what will unfold.
Parliamentary speeches and public speeches must have required memorizing pages of text.
Subhash is a perfectionist. Cheating is not allowed. Each take has to reach a bar that he sets very high. I often tell him that he doesn’t play T20. Every day on set with him is like playing a test match. But that’s also fun. Breaking up a speech would dilute its impact. Plus, we shot in a real state assembly, with a live audience, which was a bit intimidating. It would be embarrassing to keep fumbling and asking for cuts in front of the live audience.
For me, the turning point was the speech at the end of episode three, when Rani speaks her mind for the first time. By the end of that speech, she makes an emphatic point about being illiterate and shares her journey and that has a larger political impact.
What changes can we expect to see in Bheema Bharti?
You will see a lot because in the first season he didn’t do much; he was mostly unwell and lying on a bed. When we speak of the navarasas (nine emotions), here is a character that has six of seven rasas, which is a big deal for an actor. There are lots of shades and emotions to explore this time.
From 'Ship of Theseus' to 'Talvar' and 'Tumbbad', you have usually played intense and quieter characters, but a speech-giving politician needs to be more bombastic. What was that like for you?
It was definitely a new thing for me. In fact, when we were shooting for Talvar, the sound recordist came to me and said after Irrfan Khan I was the other softest speaking actor he had come across. But Maharani has opened up my vocal cords, requiring me to speak loudly, and with some intensity too. But Bheema Bharti is a very colourful character who displays anger, romance and other emotions.
In what way will Maharani 2 surprise the audience?
According to me, the first season was an indie, commercial show, whereas the second season is a blockbuster. It’s a genre jump which will surprise you.
Do you agree with Sohum, about the difference between the first and second season?
He’s absolutely right. It is a new concept. Earlier there was a desire for experimentation, and when that experiment succeeds with audiences, then you need to give them much more, and a better version. In that context to that, the show has multiplied.
As the man in the opposition, what are Naveen Kumar’s plans?
He has grand plans, but you will have to watch the show to find out more. There’s a huge leap in mostly all the characters’ lives and tracks. Naveen’s track jumps and goes to some other level. By the time you have finished one season, you know the character. So, this time around we have also explored the family life of the main characters because that way your attachment to the character grows. In that respect, there were a lot of new avenues for me to explore. Domestic life adds an element, even though it is not the focus of the show.
What are some themes explored this time around?
This is a very politically motivated show, inspired by all that is happening around us. It is an amalgamation of big events, changes and incidents from the last few years in the Indian political landscape which have been stitched together to make an interesting and entertaining show.
Also read: Maharani 2 review: It takes a corrupt village to bring down a good woman in politics