Taj: Divided by blood
Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Hindi series Taj : Divided By Blood which is now streaming on Zee5. Right from my schooling days, I have always been fascinated by History as a subject. The first line that my teacher hwd mentioned while introducing the subject to us was that History stands for ‘His-Story’. The point being that you need to just treat the subject as a story and you will sail through. I was anyway fascinated with stories and so History did become one of my favourite subjects in school.
I have always had a curiosity on how the different era would be represented onscreen. This did include the Mughal era which did formulate a huge portion of the Indian history. There have been instances of the representation of the Mughal empire through films like Mughal-E-Azam and Jodha Akbar or in the recently released Hindi series The Empire. While the films often did focus only on a particular section or incident of the life of the Mughal Emperors, the wide spread portion of the Mughal empire did remain untapped. And I was hoping that the same will be tapped in the new Hindi webseries Taj : Divided By Blood. And now that I have finished watching Taj : Divided By Blood, here are my two cents on the same.
Story & Screenplay
Taj : Divided By Blood follows the story of the Mughal empire, beginning with an aging Emperor Akbar searching for his next heir to succeed him. The story is interesting given that the setup is almost like a Game Of Thrones that does promise a captivating watch. The screenplay standing at 10 episodes of 30 to 40 odd minutes each did feel slightly long and I would have liked if the number of episodes were limited to under 8(primarily because this isn’t its sole season).
The drama does begin with the introduction of the principal characters but the proceedings seem slightly wobbly. It made me feel that the writers did not settle into the drama early on and as a result the events at the start did feel fragmented to an extent. But what I did like was the playfulness which was introduced for the very first time and may I add in an unabashed manner. So you are privy to several intimate scenes in the Mughal palace, something that hasn’t fully been explored or represented in any content onscreen. Soon, the drama does find its groove and with it your interests are piqued as well!
The proceedings are interesting and engrossing particularly from a characterization point of view. The different character traits coupled with a variety of character dynamics do add the much needed layers to the drama. The events as a result also become interesting and fascinating, given the political undertones in the drama. This as the drama traverses from one Historic event to another. The research done here was intact although at a few places I did feel that some portions of History were fictionized. Having said that, there are some nice little twists and turns that will keep you invested despite the drama unfolding at a leisurely pace.
I did like how the writers here did not shy away from raising the stakes. This wasn’t just a glorified portrayal of the Mughals, instead they were humanized much like any other historical figures. Some of the subplots make for a good viewing as well and each of those could easily be made into a full length feature film. The events leading upto the final act are interesting but the finale was slightly tepid wherein the drama did not really end on a bang. Instead, the route opted was to setup things for season 2, but they still could have ended the drama better. Overall, the screenplay has enough meat to keep you invested.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are well written and I could see the effort been spent on extracting a few Urdu words from the vocabulary. That definitely did add authenticity to the drama. The BGM is good and it did give a royal feel to the drama. The cinematography in combat sequences were good although the action choreography in itself was a little amateur. The refreshing bit was the costumes provided to the characters which was a far cry from the monochromes that have been doing the rounds in the mainstream. The editing with several jump cuts, just dilutes the drama to a small extent. The VFX is also not great and at times you can make out that there is a green screen in front of which the action is unfolding. Director Ron Scalpello does a good job here in attempting this saga which is layered by its very nature. The fact that I was invested in the drama by looking through some of its flaws meant that the direction is pretty good here!
The performances by the ensemble cast is first rate. It was a pleasure watching Dharmendra in a cameo at the beginning as Sheikh Chisti. Jaanam Raaj as Sahib Jamal and Tanvi Negi as Jagat Gossain have their moments to shine as does Pawan Chopra as Giyas. Anushkaa Luhar as Man Bai is impressive and she does a pretty good job here. Padma Damodaran as Ruqaiya is excellent, Sandhya Mridul as Jodha Bai is just so well reatrained in her role. Pankaj Saraswat as the wily Abu Fazl is wonderful to watch. Digambar Prasad as Man Singh is earnest and sincere. Akshat Mishra as Durjan and Pallav Singh as Vivaan are first rate as well.
I really did enjoy the performance of Subodh Bhave as Birbal who was quite sincere in his approach. Shubham Kumar Mehra as Daniyal has an interesting character arc and he does a commendable job here. Rahul Bose as Mirza Hakim is spot on with his performance. Taaha Shah as Murad is fiery and aggressive in a character that is not very likable. And he delivers a smashing performance. Aashim Gulati is impressive as Salim. There is a sense of control in his craft that did make his character grounded and not over the top. Aditi Rao Hydari as Anarkali looks so pretty and she is simply terrific in the series. Naseeruddin Shah as Emperor Akbar delivers an acting masterclass! He looks every bit of his character and the demeanor and grandeur in his performance is simply unmatchable!
Taj : Divided By Blood is a compelling historical drama with some interesting performances that does make for a good watch. Available on Zee5.