'Maharani' writer opens up on coincidences, his own journey and Season 4

April 22, 2024

Mumbai, April 22 (IANS) Umashankar Singh, the writer of two hit streaming shows — ‘Maharani’ and ‘Khakee: The Bihar Chapter’ — made his foray into Hindi cinema with Arbaaz Khan’s forgettable 2015 film ‘Dolly Ki Doli’ with Sonam Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao in the lead roles.

He went through a phase of creative dormancy after the film, but he came back — and how!

Talking to IANS about his rollercoaster ride in the world of entertainment, Singh first made an observation about politics and cinema.

Both politics and cinema are businesses, he said, but while politics is run by people who are resourceful and keep cutting corners, cinema is made by those who are creative and are inspired by life as it unfolds around them.

Interestingly, he clarified that although the hugely successful Huma Qureshi-led series ‘Maharani’, whose Season 4 has also been announced, seems to be inspired by the politics of Bihar, it is in reality not entirely so.

He agreed that people may find ‘Maharani’ mirroring Bihar’s politics because, like its protagonist Rani Bharati (played by Qureshi), the one and only woman to become Bihar’s chief minister, Rabri Devi, also found herself elevated to the office by the accident of circumstances. Their journeys may seem similar, but they are very different, according to Singh.

Singh, however, feels chuffed about the audience finding similarities in the two lives. He considers it to be a creative victory to be able to convince viewers and critics that Rani Bharti, indeed, is the reel incarnation of Rabri Devi.

Whenever there’s a change in the ruling dispensation in Bihar, it invariably coincides with the release of the teaser or trailer of a new season of ‘Maharani’. Is it by design or entirely coincidental?

Singh countered by saying the question should be put to the politicians. Why does the regime in Bihar change whenever a teaser or trailer of ‘Maharani’ is released? “Why do politicians market our series in this way?” Singh asked, tongue firmly in cheek.

He said politics had come to such a pass in the country that what may be considered too unreal to be shown on screen is actually the political reality.

He also spoke about why he disappeared after ‘Dolly Ki Doli’, which was the first film he got to write after his entry into the industry. Thereafter, he said, he made a genuine miscalculation by saying ‘no’ to offers that were coming his way because he wanted to do scripts for film that were “different”.

Looking back, he said, “I did not know the industry that well in those days and I had no idea of what I should pursue. I was getting one kind of assignments, but I was interested in doing something else. I should have realised then that my first priority was to find a firm footing and not get too adventurous.”

Talking at length about where he went wrong, he said, “I took a number of wrong decisions then and did not take up assignments that came my way. The the films l wrote never saw the light of day. In the meantime, the doors of the industry were closing on me. And once these doors are closed, they are very difficult to reopen, no matter how hard you bang on them.”

But with the arrival of OTT platforms, a new world opened up and Singh was back in the business of writing scripts, albeit for web series. Summing up his experience of moving to Mumbai from Delhi, despite the rollercoaster ride, Singh said the journey has had its share of rewards. He seems to have no regrets.

Although Singh is used to conversations getting focused on ‘Maharani’, he made it a point to heap praise on Neeraj Pandey, the creator of the series ‘Khakee: The Bihar Chapter’, featuring Avinash Tiwary and Karan Tacker.

Singh said Pandey empowers his writers as he not just points out the exact problem with the narrative structure, but also comes up with solutions to overcome the creative speed-breakers.

He remembered that although Pandey gave him the go-ahead to start writing the series, he was initially hesitant to place his complete trust in Singh. Quite dramatically, once Singh mailed Pandey the script of the first episode of the series, their relationship changed overnight.

Talking about his upcoming projects, Singh said he has two scripts ready for films and if all goes according to plan, these two films should hit the big screen by 2025.

And ‘Maharani 4’? Singh talked about the pressure from the OTT platform on him and Subhash Kapoor, the creator and co-writer of the series, to start work on the fourth season, but they are both tied up with other commitments.

“As soon as we complete our other work, we will start looking at Season 4,” Singh promised.

He concluded his chat with a word of advice for upcoming artistes who aspire to be in the business of films. Aspirants, he said, should move to Mumbai only after analysing themselves critically. And once they are in the industry, they must work towards continually honing their craft if they wish to climb up the ranks.



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