India is doing well on the international front with the kind of content we are creating on various international streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. After critically acclaimed series like Sacred Games, Ghoul and Selection Day, the newly launched Netflix Original Leila is causing quite a stir on the internet. The riveting dystopian futuristic series follows the story of a woman named Shalini who searches for her daughter who she lost years ago after her arrest. The series features Bollywood actress Huma Quereshi, Arif Zakaria, Rahul Khanna, Sanjay Suri and Siddharth in lead roles. It is based on Prayaag Akbar’s novel with the same name.
The story is set in the year 2047 (near future) in a land called Aryavarta where Shalini (Huma Quereshi) is married to her college sweetheart Rizvan (Rahul Khanna) and together they have a daughter named Leila. They live in a secret place away from the eyes of the law-makers because the city has been divided into segregated communities and inter-religion/caste marriages are frowned upon and the child born out of it is considered impure. Apart from the segregated communities, there are lower caste people who are forced to live far beyond the walls of purity, in the slums where the filth and garbage piles up to the sky high mountain. Situation is such that water is a luxury and is a reason of conflict in the universe to such an extent that even the rain is black in color.
The elite people are oppressive towards the commoners and consider everything impure. The frightening situation of abuse of political power and obsessive control over religious purity is insane. Women are sent to a weird place where they are forced to work as slaves, are given pills in the name of food, are forced to chant ‘Jay Aryavarta’ in the pretext of a pure soul and freedom. It’s an authoritarian world where caste, economic status and gender trigger the inhumanity of the self-proclaimed protectors of the realm.
Huma Qureshi has outdone herself in this gripping take. Her silence speaks more than her dialogues. Her portrayal of a helpless mother trapped in the cage longing to meet her family is commendable and is probably her best performance till date. Arif Zakaria, Siddharth and Rahul Khanna are as usual brilliant in their parts and make the tale believable. All the supporting caste has done a wonderful job and has definitely increased the bar.
Cinematography is crafted absolutely wisely. Muted colors, pale backgrounds and muffled lightings speak a thousand words. Not just the writing and screenplay, but the series is visually stunning too, even without any bright elements. You will witness goosebumps throughout.
The series is directed by Deepa Mehta, Shankar Raman and Pawan Kumar and will leave your mind blown. The direction is absolutely different and intense and the little details that they have tried to capture is a pleasant surprise.
Leila is the best Indian Original series to come out on Netflix. The fact that the makers didn’t stretch it and kept it crisp and gripping in the six-episodes is amazing. The genre is fresh and unexplored and is a very courageous attempt. The series will keep you engaged throughout and will give you several sleepless nights. The complexities of characters, the vision of the story and the execution seems just on point. Kudos to the whole team of Leila for attempting such a brave concept.
****½ (4 ½ stars)