Queen cast: Ramya Krishnan, Indrajith Sukumaran, Anikha Surendran, Anjana Jayaprakash
Queen creator: Gautham Menon, Prasath Murugesan
Queen rating: 3.5 stars
“Nobody is born tough. Experiences mould you as you go along,” says Shakti Seshadri (Ramya Krishnan) in an interview with a journalist played by Lillete Dubey. The first season of Queen that has 11 episodes chronicles the life of Shakti Seshadri in three phases—a bright student, a reluctant yet successful actor and a fiery politician. The first episode begins with the youngest Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, discussing her schooling, how she took to films, besides her equation with GMR, with whom she did 28 films.
MX Player’s latest web series Queen, directed by Gautham Menon and Prasath Murugesan, starts from the time Shakti was in St. Louis Park. She is the epitome of courage and strength as her name suggests. Born into a traditional Iyengar family, Shakti is studious and emerges the State topper, but her mother Ranganayaki (Sonia Agarwal), who does small roles in films, pushes her into acting, owing to financial circumstances. Anikha Surendran is brilliant and pulls of Shakti with confidence.
In one of the scenes, Shakti tells she is happier being in school more than her home. The affection and love from her teachers made Shakti confident, but deep down, she was unhappy. Shakti stays up late to show the certificates to her mother, but Ranganayaki doesn’t turn up. Shakti falls asleep as she was exhausted waiting with certificates spread across her chest. Queen, further, discusses how Shakti suffered from an inferiority complex as her mother was a small-time actor. Her classmates made fun of that and Shakti feels helpless and doesn’t know how to react. Maybe, this had an impact on her psyche while growing up, and why she had come across as being “reserved” later. Shakti never experienced the same ‘normal’ childhood as her friends. She yearned to be treated like others.
Shakti dreams of pursuing law but lands up in the murky world of cinema. She was quite keen on joining college. She wanted to study, but she couldn’t do what she aimed for. We get Gautham Menon himself in the role of a veteran director who Shakti looked up to. Despite her unwillingness to act, offers poured in. Shakti soon pairs up with her favourite icon GMR, a collaboration that catapulted her to superstardom. Though Shakti had an aversion towards the film industry, the only reason she plunged into it, is her mother.
Rest of the episodes show the ups and downs in Shakti’s relationship with GMR and how their lives entwine. Anjana Jayaprakash excels in those portions. Her expressive eyes and restrained acting is a huge plus. GMR and Shakti became the most popular pair of the time. While the former was in the fifties, the later was in the twenties. GMR had an unusual attachment for Shakti. She, too, had a soft corner for GMR. She hoped for a future with GMR, who was already a married man. GMR gave her his undivided attention, though he dominated her. Soon, GMR becomes everything for Shakti: father, mother, friend, philosopher and guide. Shakti realises she’s a caged bird as GMR didn’t let her work with other heroes in the movies, but he continued to act with others. Indrajith Sukumaran kills the role. GMR is a three-letter enigma. His life was filled with mystery as much as Shakti’s.
The main protagonist, Ramya Krishnan, comes around the eighth episode. We get a convincing portrayal of Shakti Seshadri, who is alternating in her comfort and discomfort, security and insecurity about where she is in her life. Each stride seemed to make Shakti a remarkably fearless person. Shakti looks for the love she was supposed to receive from her parents in everybody, and this makes her life tempestuous. From a headstrong being, Shakti turns into a puppet in the hands of GMR. Also, we are shown her relationship with a Telugu director (played by Vamsi).
Shakti joins the political party of GMR, which ruffled many feathers. Queen shows how Shakti’s early years were dominated by her mother Ranganayaki, and later, by GMR. Shakti didn’t have a life of her own. Though she’s fearless and independent, she lived under their shadow. All her life, Shakti has been a fighter, and Queen highlights this aspect. Overall, Gautham Menon and Prasath Murugesan tastefully present a tale of a woman who never gives up. Shakti finds herself in the constant struggle—trying to be herself yet finding the approval of acceptance from others. Like Gautham Menon said in an interview with us, Queen is a work that many women will identify with.
Queen works well as a web series. The suspense at the end of each episode keeps you invested in the characters. The actors are superb, the detailing is layered and great, and the chemistry so natural that it doesn’t hinder the proceedings. The web series is largely riveting, and the craft is as unobtrusive as possible. Perhaps the most startling scene is where we are shown the funeral procession of GMR and the happenings that unfold. Witness some nuanced acting by Ramya Krishnan!
Queen is streaming on MX Player.