Shabana Azmi and Drashti Dhami leave a lasting impression with their performances in this majorly flawed show.
The Empire is a fictionalised saga of a warrior-turned-king and narrates the story of a young king who is faced with a seemingly impossible challenge as rampaging armies and brutal enemies threaten his destiny, throne and even survival. The web show is based on the book series titled Empire of the Moghul: Raiders from the North by Alex Rutherford.
'Comparison is the thief of joy' and creates unwanted pressure. But if the comparison is by calling The Empire India's answer to Game of Thrones, then sorry, you won't pass with flying colours. The series comes at a time when stories on the Mughal Empire have been explored pretty well in Indian cinema and television. In The Empire, the screenplay has been adapted from the book which hit the stands a decade ago - Empire of the Moghul: Raiders from the North by Alex Rutherford.
Making her directorial debut with this web series is Mitakshara Kumar who is an alumna of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. She has managed to bring in multiple styles and techniques of her mentor in the series and shines in the efforts, but when it comes to portraying the story on screen, the efforts go in vain.
The major problem with The Empire is the pace at which it begins and ends. The show starts with the Battle of Panipat and immediately bounces back to Babur's childhood when he loses his father Umar Sheikh Mirza in an earthquake. He is looked after by Aisan Daulat Begum, the kingmaker played by Shabana Azmi.
Dino Morea who plays Muhammad Shaybani, is seen as the 480p version of Ranveer Singh's Alauddin Khilji in Bhansali’s Padmaavat. It seems like people didn't age a bit back then (as per this series). The actor looks the same as he did in Babur's childhood till the time he hits adulthood with Kunal Kapoor taking the charge. Let's not forget the Game of Thrones comparison as Kunal's initial look reeks of Jon Snow's curly hairdo and heavily furred outfit.
Meanwhile, the same goes with Kunal, who refuses to age in the series despite having a grown-up son Humayun played by Aditya Seal. Not just that, even Sahher Bambba as Babur's wife Maham Begum looks the same as she was seen in the first frame despite a significant time leap.
Most of the actors have stone face dialogue delivery with everyone having multiple monologues taking up the screentime. The series screams 'words speak louder than action' making it less engaging as it progresses.
The saviour of The Empire is Shabana Azmi and it's not surprising at all. Even Drashti Dhami has an amazing command on screen and does a commendable job as Khanzada Begum. The series features strong female characters who’ve managed to overpower the show with their performances when compared to the male actors.
Another impressive performance is by none other than Rahul Dev as Wazir Khan. The actor will remind you of Katappa from Baahubali but brings his unique flavour as a strict, yet soft-hearted commander-in-chief.
Other aspects to be well-appreciated are the aesthetics and the costumes of the actors. Sadly, they get ignored with flaws that are more than one can imagine.
Why does a series need to include so many songs? Is it an attempt to give the series a Jodhaa Akbar or Padmaavat touch? If that was the plan, then, sorry once again, it does not help in adding any value or elevating the show at all.
Let's talk about VFX... which is almost laughable. If Drashti is horse-riding, it would have been okay to pan the camera straight to her face and not show the fake horse which catches the attention instantly. This is just one example of many and could have been majorly worked on as the makers did with the costumes.
Since the show is based on a book series, one can expect more parts to come subsequently in the future. But we sincerely hope that the makers buck up in terms of concentrating on the screenplay and performances of the actors more so.
Unfortunately, The Empire seems to be the latest addition to the list of the likes of Tandav, Betaal, OK Computer among other shows which had the potential and were hyped at many levels but failed to make an impressive mark.
We recommend you entertain yourself by watching the trailer of The Empire which was far more intriguing than the whole series.