Leila: Web Series Review
Cast: Huma Qureshi, Siddharth, Rahul Khanna, Seema Biswas, Arif Zakaria, Adarsh Gourav, Sanjay Suri, Akash Khurana, Neha Mahajan, Jagjeet Sandhu.
Director: Deepa Mehta, Shanker Raman, Pawan Kumar.
Genre: Dystopian Drama.
Release Date: 14th June 2019.
The year is 2047. Shalini is enjoying her day in with her family in the pool, when some thugs come in and snatch her away, killing her husband in the process. Dragged to a purity camp where women are brainwashed and coerced into believing in the new system and proving their purity rules of Aryavarta– headed by the sinister Guru Ma– two years later, Shalini is still pining for her daughter, and comes up with a plan to get out and find her. The search unveils the evolving of the ugly system and a political conspiracy that is too grave to not care.
- Leila is a story about purity, about a nation obsessed with it. Aptly named as Aryavarta– an ancient name for the land inhabited by the Aryans, the pure and best of all races, in Hindu scriptures- the new nation is headed by an omnipresent Joshi. High walls keep people segregated based on class and caste, and severe punishments make sure it stays that way. In the first couple of episodes, the severity of the situation is established in a solid manner, roping you in tightly.
- Huma Qureshi plays her character Shalini with the required finesse and strength as necessary. An affluent woman once, Shalini is forced into submission in the new regime, like all women, and her subdued bright spark shines through her actions. She’s a determined woman, playing smart and dumb, to achieve what she wants- finding her daughter. Huma Qureshi is simply brilliant, blending into the character effortlessly and skillfully.
- Her brilliant performance is complimented by the supporting cast. Bhanu, played by Siddharth, Arif Zakaria’s Iyer aka Guru Ma or Seema Biswas as Madhu, they all add to the story the distinction their characters carry, giving the series depth.
- While watching Leila, one thing that starkly stands out is the very thin line the series seems to have with India’s current situation. From the huge burning garbage dumps, polluted environment, water-shortages to the unflinching fascism, Leila works as a mirror and a warning to the society. Bravo to Urmi Juvekar, the creator, for addressing the imminent future of our country, which is not impossible if we stay on the path we are currently snoozing on.
- The original music is by Alokananda Dasgupta is a bonus that elevates the experience of Leila.
- The major setback of Leila is that it fails to deliver on its promise. Heralded as a dystopian futuristic drama, in the effort to be blunt mirror of the present-day India, the message and the theme gets garbled and unsure. For e.g., the new nation of Aryavarta, with extreme segregation at its heart, is very vague. Shalini is often referred to as Panchkarmi, and the people outside the walls as Doosh, but why? On what basis of purity is the society divided? The few introductory lines in the beginning are anything but helpful. For all the comparison of Leila with Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale– because of its subdued lightening and maroon uniform for women in the camp, and their victimization- it definitely ignored the impeccable world building the Hulu series did.
- The numerous subplots do not help, either, as majority of it is left to the viewer’s imagination, unexplored and ineffective.
- Leila’s curve of attention is high in the first episode, lowering down gradually in the episodes following it, and rising again in the last one. The inconsistency could have been avoided with a tidy and clear script.
Leila is a finely strong piece that is brave and bold in the face of tyranny, but which crumbles due to its mercurial nature.
- Leila is an adaptation of the award-winning novel by Prayaag Akbar of the same name.
- Leila marks Huma Qureshi and Siddharth’s debut in the digital world.
Watch The Trailer Here:
Also Read: Chupchaap: Short Film Review