Set in 16th century India, the series follows the repressed and tortured women of the mythical kingdom of Paurashpur and their battle for emancipation led by queen Meeravati (Shilpa Shinde) and Boris (Milind Soman). But till we get to the actual good part of the story, we have to endure a lot of bad dialogues, cringe-worthy writing, acting and soft porn disguised as erotica.
The show pays homage to ’50 Shades of Grey’
We mean that literally and figuratively because not only does every character have a nefarious motive, there is way too much unconventional sex. And most of it is unnecessary. We have nothing against sex, but if the scenes aren’t propelling the story further, they’re pointless.
The kingdom of Paurashpur is ruled by king Bhadrapratap (Annu Kapoor), a sadistic old man who thinks women are good for just two things – serving him and pleasuring him. Unfortunately, the pleasuring part doesn’t work out the way he wants to because he suffers from erectile dysfunction. Naturally, he’s too proud to think that it’s his problem. His way of fixing it? Torturing his wife with molten wax to make her feel like she’s responsible for not being able to pleasure him correctly. His lover-of-the-year antics cause his wives to run away from the palace and so far, six queens have deserted him. The only queen who’s a constant in his life is Meeravati, who is as devious as she is beautiful. Naturally, with parents like that, how can their children possibly be regular! There’s the elder son, prince Aditya (Anant Joshi) who’s more interested in the court’s dance teacher Bhanu (Sahil Salathia) than his wife Kusumlata (Kashish Rai). But that’s okay because she’s busy fulfilling her sexual proclivities with her maid who she proclaims, “holds the key to her heart and chastity belt.” In Paurashpur, women are meant to protect their virtue with an honest-to-goodness chastity belt which must only be unlocked for their husbands. Doing so for anyone else is a crime that’s punishable by death. We wish we were making this up. The men, of course, can sleep with whomsoever they please.
Then there’s Boris, the one character Bhadrapratap simultaneously fears and derides. The show never offers any clues as to why Bhadrapratap fears Boris and so we can only guess. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact Boris is transgender and comfortable in their skin.
The thought counts…but barely
The message the makers of the show want to send out is noble – Paurashpur is essentially about the emancipation of women from the patriarchy of men who believe that women are the inferior gender and unworthy of respect. It is interesting that the writer chose to have the transgender character of Boris to lead the revolution. Boris, apart from Meeravati, is the only character who constantly questions Bhadrapratap over when he will end the gender divide between men and women and stop treating them as inferior objects. Boris has also set up a bordello of sorts in Paurashpur for women where they take refuge for their sexual needs and feel liberated and independent. The women too, treat Boris with respect. It is to Milind Soman’s credit that he turns in what is easily the best performance on the show – nuanced, controlled and sensitive. When Boris talks about finding it hard to stay strong under the assault of Bhadrapratap’s cruel words, you feel their pain. The actor is given some of the best lines of the show and does full justice to them. He’s ably aided by Shilpa Shinde’s Meeravati who’s at her best when she’s silently conniving. The others are over-the-top. Plus the sex could be dialled down. We have nothing against gratuitous sex but at least make it aesthetically pleasing.
WATCH OR NOT
A half-naked Milind Soman is the only thing going for this show.
Director: Sachindra Vats
Cast: Milind Soman, Shilpa Shinde, Annu Kapoor, Shaheer Sheikh, Poulomi Das, Sahil Salathia, Flora Saini, Anant Joshi
Streaming on: ALTBalaji, Zee5