Ambitious But Poorly Executed
60%Overall Score

THE UPSHOT
Based on the life of late AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa, Queen follows Shakthi Seshadri, an ambitious young girl who aims to make it big as a lawyer. But circumstances force her into acting and then politics. Despite having rich source material, the makers of the show have produced a lukewarm, one-sided drama.

Directors: Gautham Vasudev Menon, Prasath Murugesan
Writer: Reshma Ghatala
Cast: Ramya Krishnan, Indrajith Sukumuran, Anikha Surendran, Anjana Jayaprakash, Vanitha Krishnachandran, Viji Chandrasekhar, Sonia Agarwal
Streaming on: MX Player

A for ambition

Shakthi is a likeness of Jayalalithaa in Queen, a hagiography of the late AIADMK leader. Played splendidly by Anikha Surendran, the adoloscent Shakthi is shown to be an ambitious girl. She’s the head-girl in school, the kind who likes school so much, she’d rather stay back after the final bell, instead of going home. She shares a home with her single mother, Ranganayaki (Sonia Agarwal), a struggling actor, her grandmother and her younger brother Srikanth.

Shakthi yearns to study law at college. She tops the state in her board exams but when she breaks this happy news to her mother, she’s told that the family has no means to pay for college. Instead Ranganayaki puts her to work in the film industry as an actor. Shakthi tries to get into college after wrapping up her first film. However, she’s disappointed once again. This time, it’s the college, which refuses to take on actors as it considers acting a less than respectable profession. So, she throws herself into work, tasting real success when she meets GMR (Indrajith Sukumuran), an actor and character based on Jayalalithaa’s mentor, AIADMK founder MGR.

While Shakthi is hardly meek, she is dominated by various persons for a large part of her life. As a young girl, she’s a puppet in the hands of Ranganayaki. Starved of motherly love, Shakthi looks for affection elsewhere – in her school principal Sister Flavia, in her best friend’s older brother, in the director of her first film and, of course, GMR.

GMR too is dominating, but he’s the only person that Shakthi (now played by Anjana Jayaprakash) can never say no to. It’s as though she’s under his spell. She’s charmed by him and envisions a future with him, even though he’s a married man. Her contract with GMR does not allow her to work with other actors. She does as many as 28 films with him and when she’s bold enough to ask to work with another actor, GMR agrees, but Shakthi finds there are consequences to her decision.

A lot of tell, not enough show

Jayalalitha’s life and political career are rich fodder for film and TV, for the large part owing to the various controversies involving her. This is perhaps why the makers of the show have steered clear of the murky bits, painting a rosy picture of Shakthi as a driven woman, who slays the odds to reach the top. In the process, they tell a story that’s less than compelling. Praise-worthy performances by Ramya Krishnan as an older Shakthi, Anjana Jayaprakash as a young, feisty Shakthi and Indrajith Sukumuran, who plays GMR with aplomb, don’t quite help.

The narrative, in which flashbacks are interspersed with present-day scenes, unfolds as an interview conducted by a talk show host (Lillette Dubey) with Shakthi. The scenes are often long drawn-out and events, instead of being shown, are frequently discussed in painfully lengthy tracts of conversation.

Ramya Krishnan steals the show

Ramya Krishnan (pictured above) is really the only reason to watch Queen. She takes over from episode nine, when Shakthi reconnects with GMR after a long absence. He asks her to join his political party. She’s reluctant at first but finds herself unable to say no.

It’s a man’s world and she’s not welcome. GMR’s cronies ensure that they make this known to her, but it doesn’t matter to Shakthi. She believes in the causes that she and GMR take up and does her work diligently, like she always has. Even when GMR dies and his groupies try to scare Shakthi off, she stands her ground. The season ends with Shakthi coming to terms with GMR’s death. In an awakening of sorts, she realises that she is now finally free. The time has come for her to make her own decisions and shine in her own light as the queen of hearts.