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'Maharaj' movie review: A dull debut for Aamir’s son

The film tries hard, oh so hard, but frankly, what you see on screen is at best ho-hum.
Last Updated : 29 June 2024, 00:31 IST

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Maharaj
2024
2/5
Director:Siddharth Malhotra
Cast:Junaid Khan, Jaideep Ahlawat, Shalini Pandey

‘Maharaj’ has the kind of earnestness that makes you almost guilty for wanting to criticise it. It tries hard, oh so hard, but frankly, what you see on screen is at best ho-hum.

The legal troubles the makers faced before its release created some welcome buzz around it but that sense of anticipation is unlikely to be sustained because, despite a reasonably interesting plot, the treatment is bland, the sets unimaginative and the dialogues laboured and stilted. ‘Maharaj’ happens to be based on a landmark libel case fought in the Supreme Court of Bombay in 1862. However, this is not a courtroom drama. The story focuses more on the events leading up to the fight between Karsandas Mulji (Junaid Khan), a Gujarati social reformer-journalist and religious leader Jadunath Maharaj (Jaideep Ahlawat) who rapes and sexually exploits his women devotees in the name of ‘Charan Seva’. It must be mentioned here that Karsandas’ own views on women’s liberation and feminism are rather suspect  —  the first thing he tells his fiancée when he barges in on the so-called ‘Charan Seva’ is: “tumse ye umeed nahi thi” (This was not expected of you). Err...okay. Let’s blame it on the times he lived in, shall we?

Junaid is, well, earnest (that word again) and tries his best to fit into the role of the angry young reformer with a heart of gold but goes only so far. Incidentally, Junaid is Aamir Khan’s son and is debuting with this dud. The usually dependable Ahlawat has a creepy smile plastered on his face throughout, which looks like he is trying to hide his ennui behind this curiously single-expression performance. Director Siddharth Malhotra has a definite YRF (Yash Raj Films) hangover and seems unable to get rid of the production house’s typical fluff-sentiment-and-grandeur school of filmmaking  —   a sensibility that sits awkwardly with this story.

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Published 29 June 2024, 00:31 IST

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