‘Maharaj’ Review: Junaid Khan makes a Riveting Debut

Junaid Khan has arrived with a bang in ‘Maharaj’ – a tale of courage and belief. Find out if the film is worth your time.

'Maharaj' Review_ Junaid Khan makes a Riveting Debut - F

The actor truly disappears into the role of Karsan.

Maharaj is a rousing story of bravery, freedom, and standing up for one’s beliefs.

The movie is inspired by the Gujarati journalist Karsandas Mulji, who had modern ideals in the 19th century.

These views included freedom for women to marry after being widowed as well as their education.

The film is directed by Siddharth P Malhotra and is based on a book by Saurabh Shah.

It follows the main track of Karsandas fighting to expose a corrupt spiritual leader.

The movie premiered on Netflix on June 21, 2024, and introduces Junaid Khan – the son of Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan.

Despite the baggage and the inevitable comparisons with his father, Junaid makes a solid debut.

However, is it enough for viewers to invest two hours?

Let’s delve into the film and see if Maharaj is worth a watch.

A Compelling Story

'Maharaj' Review_ Junaid Khan makes a Riveting Debut - A Compelling StoryKarsandas ‘Karsan’ Mulji is born in 1832 in Vadaal, Gujarat. He arrives in the world with a curious mind.

As a result, he grows up continuously asking questions.

From this, the audience can connect with the character as we see a young man destined to be unique.

However, his life is quickly thrown into turmoil when he loses his mother at a young age.

As an adult, Karsan is engaged to the beautiful Kishori (Shalini Pandey).

In the village, Yadhunath Brijratanji ‘JJ’ Maharaj (Jaideep Ahlawat) is revered and everyone looks up to him.

Therefore, they follow his traditions with an immense eagerness.

However, Karsan’s modern and progressive thinking deters him from doing the same.

After a celebration, JJ invites Kishori for a ritual known as ‘Charan Seva’, a service that involves someone tending to his feet.

However, Karsan is disgusted when he discovers JJ’s real intentions. This leads to him ending his relationship with Kishori.

When more tragedy befalls him, Karsan takes it upon himself to expose JJ through his journalism.

He finds an ally in the vivacious Viraaj (Sharvari Wagh). However, her character is not given as much depth.

It almost feels as if Viraaj was bunged in for the sake of support for the protagonist. She doesn’t offer much in terms of story development.

The motivation of Karsan is what makes Maharaj engaging and that’s something that constantly draws the viewers into the film.

Performances

'Maharaj' Review_ Junaid Khan makes a Riveting Debut - PerformancesIt is always daunting when the children of stars enter the industry in which their parents have achieved so much.

This can lead to unfair comparisons and needless baggage.

During an appearance on Koffee With Karan in 2018, Aamir Khan revealed that his eldest child Junaid Khan wishes to pursue acting and filmmaking.

Aamir elaborated: “I told Junaid that if I don’t think you’re good enough, I won’t actively do anything to support you because that won’t be fair on the film.

“If you’re good, you will get opportunities.”

With Maharaj, Junaid proves that he is more than good.

The actor truly disappears into the role of Karsan. The pain in his eyes when he discovers JJ’s secret and Kishori’s betrayal is haunting.

For another example, there are several monologues that Karsan must deliver.

Junaid utters his lines with such conviction that it is difficult not to root for the character.

However, the representations of Kishori and Viraaj let down the film.

The characters largely stay flat and do not give Shalini or Sharvari enough scope to show enough acting skill.

For most of her screen time, Shalini speaks in a low tone, has her eyes downcast, or is giggling like a teenager.

More detail about her reasons and vices could have allowed more connection to the character.

As Viraaj, Sharvari tries to add colour to this mostly serious film, but we can see the strain in her attempt.

Among the actors of Maharaj, the highlight is a glowering Jaideep.

As the abject JJ, Jaideep is menacing and tough. His disarming calmness, even when he is on the cusp of ruin, is unnerving.

For an actor performing an antagonistic role, the aim should be to make the viewers loathe the character.

That’s the sign of a true villain and Jaideep nails the pitch of the character.

Direction & Execution

'Maharaj' Review_ Junaid Khan makes a Riveting Debut - Direction & ExecutionMaharaj is created on a large scale. The sets of the film are captivating and the cinematography is expertly done.

Viewers are transported into a different world with this film.

The film marks Siddharth P Malhotra’s digital debut. The director has previously helmed films including We Are Family (2010) and Hichki (2018).

The director divulges how the writers Vipul Mehta and Sneha Desai helped him achieve his goal with the film:

“I still remember we were headed back from a series pitch when [Vipul] narrated this idea of a play he directed and I was spellbound.

“I requested him a day later to allow me to direct it and you write it and be there with me to guide me and he graciously agreed.

“The universe conspired through me when I offered [Sneha] to come on board as well.

“The film went through a rigorous 28 to 30 drafts as the material was so much.”

Although Siddharth’s vision deserves applause, the screenplay can appear rushed and fractured.

There’s just no time to engage with the romance of Kishori and Karsan. The climax is also far too fast and these pacing issues become stumbling blocks.

The music by Sohail Sen comprises largely forgettable tracks.

However, Siddharth’s direction is commendable. It proves his versatility as a filmmaker.

Maharaj is a message of hope and is an ode to the human spirit.

With Jaideep and Junaid delivering powerful performances, the film is thought-provoking and emotional.

While it may lose its pace in places, viewers can connect with the message of the film.

If the film is genuinely trying to deliver a mark on the romance genre, that’s where the questions start to rise.

The movie’s main takeaways are standing up against injustice and having progressive thoughts.

Above all, the movie is a solid entry for Junaid Khan. Here’s hoping he gets more opportunities to take centre stage.

With Maharaj available on Netflix, prepare yourself to be left thoughtful and encouraged.

Rating

Manav is our content editor and writer who has a special focus on entertainment and arts. His passion is helping others, with interests in driving, cooking, and the gym. His motto is: “Never hang on to your sorrows. Always be positive."

Images courtesy of YouTube, Netflix, India Today, Scroll.in and The Economic Times.




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