Queen – Shakthi Seshadri, the state’s top student, is forced to take a sabbatical from her studies to pursue a career in acting. She is a go-getter who overcomes the hurdles that life throws at her head on her way to becoming not only an actress par excellence but also a political leader, a queen of all crafts who the country looks up to. This resilient woman’s story strikes a chord.
The online series is based on Anita Sivakumaran’s Queen, which was inspired by the true story of actress and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa! If there was ever any question, the series’ first sequence lays everything to rest. The episode begins with a re-enactment of one of Amma’s most popular interviews of all time — a heart-to-heart with Simi Garewal. The interviewer, Lillete Dubey, steps in and asks the iron lady, umm, Shakthi Seshadri (Ramya Krishnan), if she was always this powerful, and we get the explanation via flashbacks.
Shakthi, a young girl, excels in school; she is the head girl, excels in academics, and is on track to get a degree in law. Life seemed to be going well for her until her mother, Ranganayaki (Sonia Agarwal), a former actress who is now an extra in the film business, informs her that there is no money left and that she must work on only one film to earn enough money to attend college. A disappointed Shakthi smears greasepaint on her face and looks at the camera, and her life as she knew it changes forever. She aspires to be the greatest at anything she does, and she approaches acting with the same zeal.
An opportunity to work with superstar GMR (Indrajith Sukumaran) proves to be a professional highlight that also alters the path of her life. Shakthi takes on another new avatar – a motivated politician who wants to rule the state – after many hits, flops, and strained relationships.
When you watch Queen, you know deep down that this is the narrative of a lady who made an indelible impact on Tamil Nadu’s history, which is both the web series’ benefit and its burden.
You know Shakthi’s life inside and out from all you’ve read and heard, and when Gautham Menon and Prasath Murugesan (a shout-out to Reshma Ghatala, who wrote the 11-episode program) offer you a peek of her life, you can’t help but compare notes.
The casting is flawless. Ramya Krishnan’s performance is as excellent as Shakthi’s, as are those of Anikha Surendran and Anjana Jayaprakash, who play the teenager and young adult Shakthi, respectively. While you quickly warm up to Ramya and Anikha, it takes a little longer to accept Anjana into the position. She shines, though, in situations that highlight Shakthi’s difficulties, such as when she is rejected by a star she thought would be a guiding force in her life or when the love of her life abandons her on the day they were to marry.
Indrajith Sukumaran, who plays MGR, err, GMR, has very little to do, yet he makes you sit up and pay notice anytime he is on screen. From Sonia Agarwal as the child Ranganayaki to Lillete in Simi’s signature pure white outfit, the actors lend weight to the drama. Darbuka Siva’s eerie characteristic melody also works in its favor.
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which keeps reminding you of the command of the person whose narrative you are viewing.
This is Gautham Menon’s first try at directing a web series, and it reeks of Gautham Menonism. There’s a lovely romance and some amazing tension between the main characters, but there are also long pauses and overtly philosophical dialogues (the story unfolds in the format of an interview, with each stage of Shakthi’s life revealed as an answer to the talk show host’s question), which would have been fine if we had more flesh to bite into.
Some of the characters, such as GMR’s devoted helper and Shakthi’s enemy, Pradeepan (played well by Vivek Rajgopal), and GMR’s wife, Janani Devi (Vanitha Krishnachandran), might have been given greater depth. Each episode is over an hour-long, which is certainly enough time to develop some of the well-known characters and scenarios. The final several episodes appear to have been hurried. Perhaps the second season will have a bit more oomph.
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