Taj: Reign Of Revenge(Season 2)
Thank God It Is Friday and I am hopeful that the new releases of the week are better than last week. With that, I finished watching the second season of Taj which is now streaming on Zee5. And this season comes on the back of an extremely layered first season which was bold in many ways and focused beautifully on the world building and the character development. In fact, Taj as a franchise did potentially transport you in the Mughal era which in itself was a fascinating world.
While the first season had released in a single go, Zee5 did come up with a strategy to release the second season of Taj in two parts comprising of 4 episodes each. While I really did wish that all episodes were out in a single go, I decided to hold back my review too and eventually write it only once all 8 episodes were out. And this was due to the fact that the first part of season 2 had ended on a tantalizing note and while I am aware of the history, I was still keen on knowing how things will transpire in alignment to the history(given that history does fascinate me). Now that I have watched all 8 episodes of the second season of Taj, here are my two cents on the same.
Story & Screenplay
The second season of Taj picks up 15 years from the point where its first season had ended, and it follows the story of Prince Salim as he wishes to stake his claim on the throne while also been vengeful towards his father and brother for the death of his beloved Anarkali. This premise itself is interesting and does promise an epic face-off between the father and son. I must say that often some shows do show promise with its set-up but eventually fail to deliver on the same. But the second season of Taj is an exception. The story here is layered, nuanced and almost simmering with tension. The screenplay standing at 8 episodes of roughly 40 odd minutes each does make for smooth sailing with the right kind of ebbs and flows to formulate a layered narrative.
The drama does open with the reintroduction of the characters but I really did like how focused the screenplay was here. Like was the case in PS-2, there is a little more purpose and urgency to the events as opposed to the leisurely world building in the first part. The central plot comprises of the new successor to the throne and there are several stakeholders, new and old which would potentially alter the history of the country forever. This, while a sense of revenge is always simmering around the corner and waiting to erupt. One of the strongest aspects of the drama is the characterization which is quite brilliant so much so that it fuels the narrative at several instances. There is a sense of purpose and ambition to the characters and it makes for a compelling watch. Yet, there is a sense of softness to the proceedings that maintains the calmness in the drama.
The proceedings are engaging and immersive with the drama becoming an interesting character study which is indulgent in many ways. The twists and turns in the screenplay are interesting despite most of us knowing how things would eventually transpire. The events are layered with a lot of mind games in play that is a reflection of the ambition that each character has. And this does keep the drama floating consistently throughout while keeping the viewers invested throughout. The writers do not shy away from raising the stakes in the drama by killing off some of the major characters at times midway or even early on in the narrative. Now this itself may not be shocking in terms of the history but in terms of the narration, you aren’t sure at which stage this would occur. And hence, the proceedings are more compelling as compared to the first season.
The events leading up to the final act are interesting and they make a layered setup for the third season. There are layered twists which are revealed in quite a dramatic fashion and that does raise the stakes for so many characters around the throne. I quite enjoyed the effort that was put in for the setup of the third season which was tactful, unhurried yet focused as opposed to being random. This sums up the screenplay which is brilliantly penned and makes for a stirring impact!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational but true to the era that it was set in. I loved some of the lines in Urdu which was a far cry from the usual ‘Janaabs’ and ‘Aalampanaah’ that added texture to the drama. The BGM does raise the scale of the drama in a very big way. The cinematography is pretty good, and given the budget of the drama even the VFX is interesting. Director Vibhu Puri does a fabulous job in recreating that era by driving the narrative through its interesting characters and their motives that results in a compelling drama.
The performances are stellar here by the ensemble cast. Shilpa Kataria Singh as Asmat Begum and Shivani Tanksale as Bakht-Un-Nissa are pretty good despite a limited screentime. Aditi Rao Hydari is beautiful as ever and does a fine job as Anarkali, again in an extended cameo. Sandhya Mridul as Jodha, Zarina Wahab as Salima, Rajat Kaul as Khan, Armaan Khera as Mahabat and Anushkaa Luhar as Man Bai are excellent in their respective roles. Suhani Juneja as Arjumand is wonderfully restrained and may be an important cog in season 3. Jiansh Aggarwal as Khusrav is fiery and aggressive in a job well done. Mitansh Lulla as Khurram is wonderfully restrained and does a good job in what is another important character in the third season, presumably so.
It was wonderful to watch Dharmendra onscreen as Shaikh Salim Chisti and he shared some beautiful moments with another veteran Naseeruddin Shah who is absolutely brilliant as Emperor Akbar. Pawan Chopra as Giyas Beg is top notch with layers and layers to his character. Digambar Prasad as Man Singh is sincere and earnest. Pankaj Saraswat as Abul Fazl is outstanding in a role which was calculative and conniving. Padma Damodaran as Ruqaiya is a quite a layered character and performed with precision here.
Shubham Kumar Mehra as Daniyal was phenomenal wherein he did approach his character slightly differently than the first season(due to the character demands). He was amazing to watch. Sauraseni Mitra as Mehrunissa looks pretty and does such a brilliant job. She is simply outstanding in a wonderfully layered character which will be a ‘kingpin’ in the third season. But this season belongs ro Aashim Gulati who is magnificent as Salim. There is a sense of madness to his character but in a controlled manner and he portrays his role to perfection.
The second season of Taj is a simmering and intense follow-up to the first season that makes for a brilliant watch. Available on Zee5 and Highly Recommended.