Think of the scariest horror film you’ve ever watched. No matter how much the film made you hide underneath your blanket, deep inside you know that anything like that is unlikely to happen any time soon.
By Chetan Mehrishi
What makes Leila one of the most scariest and unsettling shows ever, is the likeliness of the fictional scenarios portrayed by the show to actually occur.
Set nearly a century after independence, the show depicts a dystopian India under a totalitarian regime and a mother’s quest in search of her daughter. But is the Huma Qureshi starrer drama worth your time and attention? Let’s find out in our review for Leila.
What’s It About?
Adapted from the acclaimed 2017 Novel by Prayaag Akbar, Leila tells the story of Aaryavarta in 2047 held under the rule of Dr. Joshi (Sanjay Suri) helmed as the lone protector of our godforsaken motherland.
Society is divided on the basis of caste, religion and income as sectors and are separated with sky-high walls with Aaryavarta (a name for India from sanskrit texts) being the nation for purest of the human race.
Clean air and water are luxuries. The rich thrive and the poor starve. Shalini (Qureshi) is happily married to Rizwan (Rahul Khanna) and has a daughter, Leila.
Their house is broken into by extremists accusing them for stealing water. Rizwan is murdered and Shalini is taken away to a reprimand house leaving her daughter to be left alone.
This six episode series narrates the atrocities a mother goes through to get to her lost daughter as the nation lives through the dillusion that putting up walls would be the end of all problems. Taking our contemporary issues to a next level of possibility the show paints a stark picture of what India could be under a dictatorship.
The show is Deepa Mehta’s brainchild so we know for sure what’s in store for us. The scenes of the reprimand house, a woman getting married to a dog, women rolling over plates of half-eaten food and many others have been done brilliantly.
Huma Qureshi has been spectacular and awe inspiring as the distraught mother. Arif Zakaria as Guru Maa is scarily convincing. Other supporting actors like Siddarth, Seema Biswas and Rahul Khanna have put in effortless performance.
Johan Heurlin Aidt’s camera work is commendable. With tight close up shots, Aidt helps in never losing the tension and keeping us intrigued.
There are some moments which feel either too dragged or unnecessary.
Screenplay by Asad Hussain and Urmi Juvekar, though otherwise gripping, feels like it could be worked upon.
All In All
The thing which disturbs me the most is not the story of Shalini, but rather the story of Aaryavarta. It’s the backdrop of a nation divided and ruled upon by a tyrant so lovingly accepted by all of us which gives me sleepless nights. A world where we might regret bringing up our children in.
Leila, in a way, is like the Third Christmas Spirit straight from Charles Dickens story warning us of the cost our next generation must have to pay for our actions. It’s 3 out of 5 from our side for this gem. You would not feel too good after the end of it, but sometimes it becomes a necessity.