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Taj: Divided By Blood review: Naseeruddin Shah, Aditi Rao Hydari make this historical-ish drama work

Taj: Divided By Blood is Sooryavansham-on-Set-Max but in reverse: you know the story all too well, but the repetition doesn't bore you to death.

Taj: Divided By Blood review: Naseeruddin Shah, Aditi Rao Hydari make this historical-ish drama work

Taj: Divided By Blood

Last Updated: 01.11 PM, May 18, 2023


STORY: The worst of human characteristic traits come ashore when the most prolific Mughal emperor—Muhammad Akbar—makes it known that he is, indeed, on the lookout for a worthy successor. In this politically motivated battle of blood-turning-against-blood, who will dethrone the supremo, and who will have hands that have blood of their kin on them?

Taj: Divided By Blood is Sooryavansham-on-Set-Max but in reverse: you know the story all too well, but the repetition doesn't bore you to death.

REVIEW: Did you ever dread meeting your favourite celebrity, thinking they would turn out to be absolutely distasteful when the cameras are not rolling? And that that aspect of their persona would break your heart? Before starting Taj: Divided By Blood (dirs: Ron Scalpello, Ajay Singh, Vibhu Puri and Prashant Singh)—strictly because of just how much content there is to consume out there involving the mighty Akbar—I had that similar feeling pertaining to the never-meet-your-heroes-in-person adage. In all honesty, though, barring a few occasional (and overlook-able) hiccups here and there, Taj has, to a reasonable degree, plucked an often-abused yet highly amusing chapter from the pages of Indian history and given it a quasi-contemporary twist that is both lazy and laudable in equal proportions.

The 10-episode-long series opens with a sequence from when Akbar’s political dominance as an emperor was felt in every nook and cranny of the Indian subcontinent. While the show’s background theme sings praise of his grit and gumption, Taj hyperfocuses on Akbar’s complex relationship with his three sons: Salim (Aashim Gulati), Murad (Taaha Shah Badussha), and Daniyal (Shubham Kumar Mehra). As Akbar’s days of glory and grandeur are nearing its horizon, all three of them are prompt at sniffing tough competition from one another in their race to dethroning the greatest emperor to have walked the alleys of India.

Taj is a story that has a personality of its own: the individuality of Akbar’s three sons gets enough screentime for us to be invested in them, thus making the period drama engaging, which, as we all know, could be a humongous challenge for any maker in this genre.

However, in an attempt to make the diegesis relatable to this generation of binge-watchers, Taj:Divded By Blood has the term ‘creative liberty’ written on it in almost every frame you see. The pressure to break norms and be exciting has, without any doubt, led the creators of the show to compromise with the facts historically known to us. On the brighter side, unlike the plethora of books and movies and TV shows on the famous emperor, Taj has behind-the-scenes material aplenty, if you know what I mean.

However, credit will be given where it is due. Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah, as this epitome of valour and strength, exudes the kind of complexity only an actor with range (and repertoire) such as his can pull off on screen. Naseeruddin Shah shifts from a ruthless ruler to this kind-hearted leader in a span of seconds. In those brief moments of complete vulnerability and absolute submission to his humane self, you see a rare—thanks to the actor—but certainly welcome side to Akbar’s otherwise intense demeanour. Aashim Gulati is charming, and has the flair and flamboyance of Salim, who —as the urban lingo goes—'cannot keep it in his pants'. Another pleasant inclusion to the already elaborate star cast was Taha Shah Badussha (as Prince Murad). The hot-headedness of a young prince finds an easy outlet in the young actor. Although Taha could have done away with some of that loudness that came in the form of his facial expressions.


Shubham Kumar Mehra is meek and submissive as Daniyal: something that was paramount to his character. Now onto period drama and anarkali suits'—yes, pun very much intended!—favourite child, Aditi Rao Hydari. Other than flooring everyone with her kind eyes, a strong sense of self and that old-world timidness, if there was one actress who was tailormade to play Anarkali, then it was hands-down Rao Hydari. Sandhya Mridul (Jodha) and Zarina Wahab (Salima) are elegance personified, and Rahul Bose surprises us all with his traitor act as Akbar’s brother Mirza Hakim.

The show has 10 (very long!) episodes for the story to pan out the way it has, but kudos to its makers, despite the length and notoriety attached to the genre, the show never feels like a PR (or a fanboy) stunt at glorifying the already glorified. What has received equal attention to detail are the large sets erected at real-life locations, the convincing special effects and just the overall grandiosity that the show rightly demanded; the production house has earnestly delivered.

Taj: Divided By Blood shows what power could do to those on top, and to what length one is willing to go to experience the very-exclusive power trip of being powerful. With all that petty politics and juicy bits that this period drama has to offer, Taj is basically the Bigg Boss House but for regal people.

VERDICT: Clearly, entertainment and audience interaction has prompted the makers to tweak historical facts for being relevant. Having said that, if the personal stories (or, the ones laden with fiction) interest you, then you should hop on this fun (but very long!) ride.

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