Netflix’s latest ‘Leila‘ is an adaptation of Prayag Akbar’s novel released in 2017. This series of 6 episodes is a ‘Dystopian Drama’ which hints towards a dystopic future of the nation.
Directed by- Deepa Mehta, Shankar Raman, Pawan Kumar
Produced by- Priya Sreedharan, Wasim Khan, Zulfaquar Haider
Starring- Huma Qureshi, Rahul Khanna, Arif Zakaria, Seema Biswas, Siddharth, Sanjay Puri
‘Leila’ opens with a mob lynching at a Muslim man’s house, Rizwan Chaudhari played by Rahul Khanna, who’s married to a Hindu woman Shalini, played by Huma Qureshi. The goons kills Rizwan, kidnap their daughter who’s “Mishrit” (mixed blood), arrest Shalini and put her into a concentration camp. And that’s how the struggle of Shalini begins…
‘Leila’ is a futuristic drama, set in the 2040s India called “Aryavarta” (“land of the noble”). And the conglomerate world of “Aryavarta” is shown to be a religious cult which intends to destroy a part of the society on various basis. What intensifies the story of this drama is the focus on apprehending women who get married outside their community and are named as “dushkarni”; hence the arrest of Shalini. The plot of the series mostly revolves around the life of the mother, i.e. Shalini who goes to the extremes in the quest to find her daughter Leila.
To the audience, the world of “Aryavarta” appears to be extremely claustrophobic and dehumanizing, which it surely is. A society which has scarcity of water, pure air, dividing people on the basis of caste and creed, lack of acceptance of inter-caste marriage, high-rise walls to divide the rich and the poor, segregation of citizens on the basis of “purity” etc. What’s even more scary is that this is portrayed as a future of India.
Does the scenario seem exaggerated? The condition of India right now could be leading to similar circumstances in the future. If you raise your voice against religious intolerance, class and caste-divide and similar schisms, you may have to suffer the brunt of the powers that be. And that’s exactly why Akbar penned ‘Leila’ in the first place. If you think closely, the Hindi phonetic counterpart of the term ‘Leela’ actually means dramatic unfolding of divine actions. Is there a hidden message lurking in the name?
After masterpieces such as Fire and Water where Deepa Mehta has portrayed how a woman is forced into solitude under Hindu patriarchy, Leila is another new offering. Keeping in mind that the series has been released right after the second term for the right-wing supremacy, this qualifies as quite a bold story telling.
The language is strong, the cold dim light in the nationalist rehabilitation centre is spooky, and the irrational dialogues and expression of Arif Zakaria (Guru Maa, yeah that’s more weird) are unnerving. Not to forget that fascist rules of the community are blood boiling and the dehumanizing treatment is even more daunting. All in all, ‘Leila’ is dark, intense and sucks you into the (improbable but not impossible) mirage of a regressive society of the future.