The Empire: Kunal Kapoor, Dino Morea, Drashti Dhami shine in engrossing tale of Babar's tumultuous journey
New Delhi, September 11, 2021
His name is etched in history as the person who laid the foundation of the grand Mughal Empire in India, which held its sway over the country during the 16th and 17th century.
While most history books and historical accounts tell us about the conquests made by Babar in the course of his efforts to lay the foundation of the Mughal dynasty in India, not many tell us about Babar's evolution as a human being during his journey from his homeland of Samarkand and Ferghana to becoming emperor of Hindustan, as india was called at that time.
The new web series The Empire, streaming on Disney Hotstar, takes viewers through the journey of Mohammad Zaheeruddin Babar from being a heir apparent of the Timurimd land of Samarkand to becoming the emperor of Hindustan.
The journey of Mohammad Zaheeruddin Babar, son of philosopher king Omer Shaikh, to laying the foundation of what is considered one of the greatest empires in india was a traumatic one with death constantly playing a game of hide and seek with Babar and circumstances and people close to him often driving him towards doing things against his inner voice,
In the opening scene of the web series, Babar (Kunal Kapoor) is heard saying that "Chaudaan saal ki umarse hum maut ko dhokha dete aaye hain, ab use age kahan? (From the age of 14, I have been playing hide and seek with death. Now where do I go from here?)"
It is a line that encapsulates the journey of Babar from the hills of Samarkand to the prized land of Hindustan. It was a journey that saw him being constantly crippled by self-doubt and faced with dilemmas of choosing between protecting his own family and consolidating his empire, with Babar giving precedence many a time to the safety of his family over his territorial ambition.
The web series, based on Alex Rutherford's Empire of the Moghuls: Raiders from the North, traces the origins of the Mughal dynasty, taking us through the tumultuous life journey of the young Babar as he embarks on expansion of the Mughal empire. His tumultuous journey sees Babar being confronted by self doubts, treacherous allies and fierce opponents.
Aiding him in this journey with their counsel or armed support are his close family members including his grandmother Eisandawalat or Shah Begam (Shabana Azmi), his elder sister Khanzada (Drashti Dhami), his loving wife Maham and his trusted lieutenant Wazir Khan (Rahul Dev).
While most history books deal with the various conquests by Babar during his journey to consolidating the Mughal empire, The Empire deals with the evolution of Babar as a human being in the course of his journey.
Through the various episodes in his life, director Mitakshara Kumar attempts to provide us a peek into Babar as a human being.. it shows that beneath the exterior of a fierce warrior and emperor lies a tender and gentle human being who cares immensely about his family, friends and his subjects.
It shows Babur as a pacifist who believes in resolving conflicts through dialogue. Through various episodes, we are shown that for Babar the well-being of his family is more important than any conquest.
Also, he comes across as a person who is crippled by self-doubt and often swayed by the opinions of people close to him.
A major portion of the web series deals with the effort by Babar to deal with the challenge posed by Uzbek leader Sheybani Khan (Dino Morea). The latter half of the series deals with Babur's foray into Hindustan and his decisive battle with Ibrahim Lodhi.
The series boasts of grand production values - sets that bring out the magnificence and the grandeur associated with the Mughal Empire. War sequences are well-mounted while the various locations comes across as visually appealing.
The dialogues are well-written and true to the era.
The real USP of the series is, however, its performances.
Be it Kunal Kapoor as Babar, Drashti Dhami as Khanzada, Shabana Azmi as Shah Begum, Rahul Dev as Wazir Khan, Dino Morea as Sheybani Khan or Aditya Seal as Humayun, every actor has played his or her part with perfection.
Kunal Kapoor bowls you over with his nuanced portrayal of Babar. He is endearing as the emperor with frailties and vulnerabilities and as a person whose heart bleeds for his close family members and who holds himself responsible for any hurt caused to a family member.
Shabana Azmi, seen on screen after a long time, is impressive as Babar's grandmother Shah Begum to whom the king often turns for advice and who is the conscience-keeper of the emperor. The Empire may be about Babar's journey but it is the character of Eisandawlat or Shah Begum who holds an all encompassing presence in the life of Babur.
Rahul Dev cones up with a stellar act as Babar's lieutenant Wazir Khan who is constantly aiding him through his journey and who acts as his constant shield against his adversaries.
Morea springs a surprise with his portrayal of Uzbek leader Sheybani Khan whose brutality and savagery knows no mercy for his opponents and who is out to destroy the Timurimd empire of Babar.
The real scene-stealer in The Empire is, however, Drashti Dhami with her spirited act as Khanzada who remains strong amid the frequent attempts by Sheybani Khan to break her and overpower her. Also, after the death of Shah Begum, she acts as the advisor and conscience keeper of Babur, who often turns to her for advice. Hers is a performance to watch out for.
Imad Shah and Aditya Seal are competent as Babur's friend Qasim and the Mughal heir apparent Humayun.
My rating; 4/5