Review of “Maharaj”: A Promising Premise with Flawed Execution

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Helmed by Siddharth P. Malhotra, film ‘Maharaj’ is based on Saurabh Shah’s book by the same name; it revolves around the 1862 Maharaj libel case fought in the Bombay High Court. The film stars Junaid Khan, Sharvari Wagh, Jaideep Ahlawat, Shalini Pandey, and others.

With a run time of 2h,11 mins, the film narrates the events that transpired between religious leader, Jadunathji Brijratanji Maharaj and Journalist & Social reformer Karsandas Mulji. Jadunathji or JJ had filed a case against Karsandas, claiming defamation from an article written by Karsandas that charged the Maharaj with sexual exploitation of women of his sect, by forcing the men to prove their loyalty towards the faith by offering their wives and daughters to him.

While the plot and the premise on the onset appear intriguing and interesting, especially as they are based on a real life events, the story-telling is rather weak. The narrative does not grip and the dialogs do nothing to take the storyline forward.

Characters are not etched properly and character arches are more or less missing. It’s more like a chronology of events that is being conveyed at lighting speed.

This is the other problem; the pace of the film is too fast and one struggles hard to keep up with the narrative.

The sets, the lingo and theme are not reminiscent of an era almost 150 years ago. Intuitively it looks more recent rather than an event from another century.

The emotional quotient is also missing! You are unable to connect with the characters or understand their duress within the societal constraints of those times. The struggle, within and without is missing.

Talking of characters, the film is based on four main characters- Maharaj played by Jaideep Ahlawat, Karsandas essayed by Junaid Khan, Shalini Pandey aka Kishori, Karsandas’s fiancée and Maharaj’s victim and Sharvari Wagh, as Viraaj, a staunch supporter of Karsandas.

Of the entire star cast, Jaideep Ahlawat as JJ steals the show! From a heavy 109.7 kg Jaideep transformed himself by dropping to 83 Kg within 5 months.

His restrained performance as a shrewd yet revered sect leader, makes you respect and loathe him at the same time.

Junaid, son for superstar Aamir Khan, has delivered a decent performance. He is able to deliver long dialogs with considerable ease and is also believable, but the X-factor is totally missing.

While Shalini Pandey is decent, its Sharvari Wagh, as Viraaj that is the big surprise package. She, in a rather small role has delivered a very noteworthy performance.

She is pleasing to the eye, delightful as well as playful without being overboard or irritating. Her’s is what you call a balanced performance.

All in all there is nothing wrong with the film, or perhaps that’s it; that nothing wrong with it. It’s just too average. It’s all there but does nothing! There is no great take-out, you do not feel enthralled, or wowed or for that matter engaged!

So should you watch the film, I say why not? If there is nothing better to do with your time.

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