Leila : Review
It is not often that Indian television ventures into dystopian worlds, in-fact Leila marks the first ever Indian Television Show to feature a dystopian India in the not so near future. A world ruled by religion and divided by categories and caste. Sounds a lot like the present, but may be a just a over imagined version of an expected reality of our future, at least from the creators mindset.
Based on Prayaag Akbar’s book “Leila,” the Netflix original series talks about a dystopian India in the 2040s called “Aryavarta”. In Aryavarta intercaste marriages are illegal and water and basic life resources are scarce.
The storyline is strong and heart wrenching, but also slow at times. All characters introduced in the show are new, and hence only by episode 2 does the viewer get any grasp of what is happening in this world.
The communities and religions are divided into sectors and ruled with an iron fist. Delinquents are picked up by Repeaters, Aryavarta forces and sent to purifying camps, where they undergo “Shuddhi Parikshas”. And are brainwashed into the new world order.
Shalini (Huma Qureshi) is the protagonist, post marrying a Muslim, Rizwan (Rahul Khanna). Is taken to a “Purifying camp” by Repeaters and her daughter “Leila” is now missing. The story follows six episodes of Shalini navigating this new world and locating her daughter.
The show is shot entirely in Delhi, so those familiar with places like Nehru Place, Lodhi gardens and our famous Garbage dump will easily relate to the show.
Leila is also the first Indian show that manages a dystopian world that seems believable, and even though it shows a general propaganda machine it is evident that the creators of the show managed a tastefully shot future.
There are parts which seem annoying, the use of current generation cars, and homes, and while they show a walled city separated from the “doosh” ( an untouchable caste in the show) technology is still very outdated. These is also a poor use of drones in one of the episodes that is extremely cringe.
Certain parts of the show create the concept of a future with good use of graphics show a wide use of holographic technology, modern tablets and scanners that scan chips embedded in wrists of citizens behind tattoos.
Despite the lack of a perfect future from a cinematography perspective the show is shot beautifully and then graded well. Even parts of the show shot in garbage dumps look great and really capture the mind of the viewer. There is an overcast throughout the show which really engulfs you, and makes the entire prospect believable.
The show is also available in both English and Hindi, originally shot in Hindi, but voiced over by the same actors in English.
The show seems similar to the Handmaids Tale, from design and storyline, especially in the early episodes. However it takes a different twist as it progresses.
It is also clear that some characters are not properly suited for their roles initially. Especially Bhanu (played by Siddharth) who is Shalini’s minder and only by the 4th episode seems comfortable with the role.
This is the best portrayal of a propaganda based system of government, from a design and execution perspective. The world, however, seems tiny and characters are less. The show constantly revolves around a small region which makes the imaginative scope of Aryavarta small. The rulers of Aryavarta all seem extremely close and the shows creators seem to be in a rush to introduce characters on a grand scale.
The story line is also slower than one would like, but the show is beautifully crafted and engulfs you with intrigue and shock. Certain aspects of the show will make you reflect your own choices and this is what makes Leila special.
We would like to see Leila return for several more seasons, and create a larger world with a deeper storyline. The 6 episode show seems to near a closing, but there is a lot expected from the future from the show.
Leila is grippy and exciting, and is an exceptional watch, as it sets a benchmark for TV shows in India. Now if they could just use some electric cars and more graphics we would be thrilled.
Set in the Future
Lacks Futuristic Infrastructure
Weak Character Introductions