Post the success of Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya, Gautham Vasudev Menon is excessively showy of peripheral elements. The reason why VTV worked for me was due to its nuanced way of rooting internal conflicts with characters. The voids where intact for the spectator to fill. However, this time around Menon is on hire, helming the MX original created by Reshma Ghattala. Queen is inspired by the life of Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minister Jayalalitha. It’s an out-and-out biographical. Shakthi Sesadhri is our title character, whose character arc has big transitions to reckon with. Anikha plays the school portions, Anjana Jayaprakash has most of the establishing portions and Ramya Krishnan is the full grown Shakthi who is the titular.
The storytelling of Queen is very typical of a biopic, it is narrated as an interview conducted by Lilleti Dubey. It cuts to Shakthi’s school life, when she was 15. She is the head girl of her school who doesn’t like to be in the spotlight. She answers in rapid speed when teacher drops a question in class. Anikha is gorgeous, she expresses so elegantly with eyelids. When the bell rings Shakthi looks down casted. It is as soon we enter into her family backdrop. Her mother played by Sonia Agarwal is a junior artist at the movies, the place where she resides is full of such women from the movie industry. Her Grandmother only wants to know if she has eaten her lunch. They aren’t interested in her academics. Shakthi aspires big and wants to graduate from Queens Victoria college but the stature of her mother’s financial position tears her dream apart.
The first episode ends with a cliffhanger of Shakthi’s first major transition to the movie industry. She has got an offer to play the lead actress in a Tamil film. While the second episode (directed by Prasanth Murugesan) juxtaposes few important character dynamics, an inter-class friendship and a brother-sister relationship. The initial episodes are also a deep dive into a meta-cinematic commentary of the 70’s film industry, the politics of hierarchy and patriarchy rooted from these early days. Women who are associated with cinema is perceived as inferior even irrespective of their class/caste status. Because Sakthi’s family is upper class brahmin and, inter-cut to another scene later, even though Shakthi is wealthy she couldn’t get an admission in Queen’s Victoria just because her profession is acting. There is also a portion which portrays how illiteracy was widespread amongst the industry.
After the initial portions starring Anikha, the series starts to slow down and pacing seems to be inaccurate and overly conscious in entering the character’s psyche. The phase two deals with the Movie Industry and Shakhi’s relationship with GMR (Indrajith Sukumaran) and Chaithanya Reddy (Vamsi Krishna). These portions are dragged like hell. Most of the time is scrapped in unnecessary events than rooting other multiple number of characters.
Indrajith’s performance is terrific. He elevates many shoddily shot scenes with his formidable presence. The same role which Mohanlal nailed in Iruvar with his class act is given a distinctive approach by Indrajith. He is very meticulous. The romance of Chaithanya Reddy and Shakthi is the typical GVM. It seriously looks tad boring and the heartless English renditions-cum-writing makes it even more worse to say the least. Anjana Jayaprakash is unconvincing playing the much younger version of Shakthi.
Most of her emotional moments feels fabricated and soulless. There is an extended portion where the Mother-daughter relationship finds redemption. They revive back. We get to see the characters from Shakthi’s childhood, there is a wannabe melting point where the Mother sees her Son after a long time. These feels like excerpts scratched inside and don’t register for longer than it actually should. Most of the episodes are directed by Gautham Menon. And, he does so much little than just translating paper onto screen.
It is when the third transition – into politics, where Ramya Krishnan enters the characters shoes, series starts to pick up. Indrajith and Ramya Krishnan resonates a spiritual chemistry between them. But the male ego surrounding this political premise, which is headlined by the character Pratheepan is underwritten. There are wannabe solid moments like the long climax confrontation which is nicely directed, but the character doesn’t get a solid root. He becomes not more than merely a caricature negative character. The bigger issue with this show is that these character transitions of Shakthi, from academics to cinema to politics, are terribly written. The better looking political texture in the last few episodes is the only left future anticipation from Queen, as it enters a full blown political territory by the next season.