Deccan Chronicle

Web Series Review | Taj: A not-so-royal saga of succession

Deccan Chronicle.| Ajit Andhare

Published on: March 4, 2023 | Updated on: March 4, 2023
It is a dull, uninspiring, and unintentionally tired piece of work. It's not at all a case of Wah, Taj'. (Photo: Twitter)

It is a dull, uninspiring, and unintentionally tired piece of work. It's not at all a case of Wah, Taj'. (Photo: Twitter)

Period dramas are a treat to watch and generally are a big hit on streaming platforms. Historical accuracies apart, the sheer scale on which the drama is mounted coupled with some eye-catching costumes and sets is captivating enough. However, there is a limit to watching the same story again and again.

Emperor Akbar is one such character who has been a darling of filmmakers as much as he has been of historians. Over a period, we have had several movies and series telling us about the palace intrigues, the sibling rivalry among his sons, the fight for one-upmanship among his wives, his benevolence and proficiency as an administrator, and so on.

‘Taj: Divided by Blood’ currently streaming on Zee5 once again attempts the same and hence suffers heavily from the last-mover disadvantage. It collapses under a heavy feeling of déjà vu.

To begin with, the entire cast looks visibly tired and mostly sleepwalks through their performances. Moments of tension and intrigue are far and between.

‘Taj’ mostly comes across as a family saga that is on the verge of descending into a saas-bahu drama rather than a fresh historical take on an emperor’s quest to find his successor.

Instead, what one gets is epicurean royals, blood, wine, gore, cliched battle scenes, titillating sounds emanating from the harem, incest, and a gay prince.  

Naseeruddin Shah who plays an aging Akbar appears fatigued all the time. Aashim Gulati as the philandering prince Salim does appear to have some fun but is no match to the other actors who have essayed a young prince Salim so far. Taaha Shah as Shah Murad does get a meatier character and makes the most of it. Shubham Kumar Mehra who plays Shah Daniyal, the eternally devout prince with a dear-in-the-headlights look, is the best among the three on the screen.

Director Ron Scalpello seems to have resolved to pay a tribute to other creations handling the same subject rather than creating anything new. While creative and historical liberties certainly have been taken, doing so has not fructified in the audience’s favour.

In this mediocre drama that unfolds at an insufferably languid pace, a surprising character and performance is that of Raja Birbal by Subodh Bhave. Subodh is known for his performances in Marathi and this seems to be his breakout performance in Hindi. Birbal shown in ‘Taj’ is not your usual court jester known for his wit and repartee. Here, Birbal is the voice of consciousness and sanity and is a diplomat who is never afraid of speaking the truth even in front of Akbar.

Sandhya Mridul and Zarina Wahab don’t have much to offer. Aditi Rao Hydari and Rahul Bose are a complete waste.

If you have been a fan of ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Siyaasat’, or ‘Jodha Akbar’, or ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, and are expecting something similar, stay away. If you haven’t watched a single historical drama so far, then you may watch ‘Taj’, an unnecessary and ridiculous reimagination of history. Because there is also a blink-and-miss cameo by veteran actor Dharmendra at the start of the story. For all other veteran viewers of the genre, it is a dull, uninspiring, and unintentionally tired piece of work. It’s not at all a case of ‘Wah, Taj’.

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