By Dr Priyaankaa Mathur
The web series Queen is a fictionalised version of the real-life story of the actor turned politician the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Written by Reshma Ghatala, the story is inspired by the novel ‘Queen’ written by Anita Sivakumaran.
Directed in a story retold format, actor Ramya Krishnan renders the lead role of the character Shakti Sheshadri the protagonist who tells her life’s journey to a seasoned show presenter enacted by Lilette Dubey. There are deep conversations that flow in an excruciatingly slow story, opening layers of her life from the age of 14 to 40. The story showcases an undaunted spirit of a woman, who has been always punished for her excellence, but did not give up till she achieves the throne she deserves.
Shakti Sheshadri, enacted by Anika in her teens, is a sharp youngster with an undaunted zeal for achieving excellence in anything she would do. Being the Head Girl of her convent school, she has a deep focussed vision and possesses leadership qualities from an early age. In her school, she is a disciplined rank holder who’s an ideal student, not only for her teachers, but the parents of her fellow students, who set standards before them to follow her, sometimes never letting them enjoy the school, some of them hate her, except for her few close mates who adore her.
Being an extraordinary student, Shakti’s life is not a bed of roses, her mother played by Sonia Agarwal, is a young widow who runs her kitchen with the little money which comes from her struggling acting career. She keeps reminding Shakti of her status time and again, so that she would not indulge much with her wealthy friends.
While, Shakti aspires to become a lawyer and starts to dream about joining Queen’s College, which is the best in the league after she tops her secondary board examination, life takes it’s toll on her. Looking at the miserable financial condition of the family her mother gives her an ultimatum to quit her dreams of further education forcing Shakti to take up an acting assignment in a film as a child artist in a leading role.
The story showcases the delicate sentiments of a 15-year-old girl, who goes through the harsh reality of life at a tender age. While on one hand Shakti reluctantly takes up the Film assignment, she silently awaits her late admission to the Queen’s college after finishing the film. She keeps forgetting her dance steps, shows attitude to the crew and the director working in the film with no interest, unless the day comes, when the college rejects her application for the reason that it did not support the entertainment professionals.
That’s when the story takes a turn making her realise that she had nothing else to do apart from acting and then gives her best shot. While she says in the interview , ‘I acted as no one could ever act’. Eventually she receives the applause of the entire film crew, and the Director who announces at that very moment ‘the birth of a superstar’, while she starts receiving popularity through her work.
For Shakti who’s a young adult between 18 and 30, Anjana Jayaprakash renders the role with absolute sensitivity. Her life seems to just roll out of her control every time, as events turned out in a way, that she could not help, but to go with the flow. One fine day the Tamil Superstar GMR played by Indrajith Sukumaran, reaches her house to offer a lead role against him and asks her to be his Queen. Shakti gets those flashback moments remembering every dialogue of his films, while she grew up watching the legendary actor. She did not have any courage to say no to GMR throughout her life and respected his decisions with absolute belief. Eventually, she signs a hefty contract of more than 25 films with him, many of which turned out to be blockbusters.
The time passed and they grew closer, while Shakti gradually falls in love with the actor, later knowing that he was a married man. She carried an image of being his muse in the industry, while GMR mentored her as though he owned her, while his wife had to digest this relationship, unwillingly all her life.
GMR who’s shown as a seasoned actor and politician in a dignified Avatar, starts showing his actual shades. While Shakti was still bound within the contract, he starts working with other female actors, starts avoiding her which makes her feel abandoned. Eventually Shakti realises her actual place in his life, which eventually strained their relationship.
Although bound in the contract Shakti still had not given up. She is a free spirited woman, who aspires to explore working in the Hindi cinema, while she receives an offer. Although with little force she managed to get permission from GMR, he again manipulated the director to refuse her. Shakti feels extremely vulnerable but walks out of the film high headed with a stern look as if she’s unaffected. But, internally she felt heartbroken, disowned and neglected and tries to commit suicide. Anjana Jayaprakash portrays Shakti’s helplessness, so well that one is left to tears at many points.
Hearing this, GMR comes to the hospital and instead of showing any empathy releases her from the contract, showing his hidden shades of jealousy. GMR’s character is very well balanced which shows on one side a larger than life profile who’s like a God for commoners, and on the other hand, he’s a manipulator who takes calculated moves to benefit himself. While he tries to draw women towards him with his generosity, except for his wife, later making their life miserable, when he finds a new attraction.
Although during her acting career Shakti had seen great heights being successful as an actor having won awards, earned money and her own house which meant a lot to her, she craved for true love which she never received all her life…And then comes another turning point when life gives her a second chance in love. The young and charismatic film director Chaithanya Reddy (played by Vamsi) approaches her to shoot for his film, who eventually sweeps Shakti off her feet. Their onscreen chemistry lightens up the screen, bringing in the much needed lighter moments to the story.
The couple falls in love and decides to marry and eventually the wedding day comes, when again Reddy did not turn up, leaving Shakti heartbroken yet again. Shakti comes to know the truth much later when she attends GMR’s funeral by Pradeepan played by Vivek Rajagopal who renders the negative shades remarkably being GMRs right hand. He plays a brain game with Shakti with a strategy to break her completely at GMR’s Funeral, and eventually discloses, that Reddy was manipulated by GMR and his close mates in return for a film deal to back out of their marriage last minute. This leaves her speechless as she had no one to ask the truth as GMR was dead now.
While in her later years GMR again, calls Shakti to serve his political party and she again agrees to his command, trying her best at this new role. She fumbles initially and learns with her experience how to deal with this new political environment, where people only consider her as GMR’s muse and someone who has been supported all her life because of her illegitimate relationship with him. While she is the most capable out of all men leaders in his party, they choose GMRs widow Janani Devi as a Puppet leader of the party. But, Shakti stays strong and relentlessly works to prove her true worth, winning the hearts of her people as the uncrowned Queen till she got her throne, which Ramya Krishnan renders with utmost maturity and grace.
The web series is indeed very well directed by Gautham Vasudev Menon and Prasath Murugesan, with a strong script, which has no melodrama or superficiality. It has a well-chosen cast aptly depicting the characters in the life of Shakti Sheshadri, who stood back after every defeat, to prove her point not only to those who challenged her, but to herself!