Why a Netflix series on politics and water crisis with huge potential got stuck with a sluggish IMDB rating?
Like every curious person, I googled Leila immediately after binge-watching the series in complete awe, to discover more about the creator, her inspiration and the subsequent storyline for the second season. What shook me the most was its IMDB rating, a parameter that a regular movie/web series connoisseur entrusts upon before wasting or investing his time on an alien art. 4.4/10, Leila stood there in the myriad of average films/series dejected by the public. Before seeing the reviews I had kept the show in racks of Sacred Games, thinking Leila was as dark, raw and wrenching as the 2018 cult hit starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Saif Ali Khan. But I couldn’t switch my admiration for the Huma Qureshi and Siddharth starrer based on reviews of deeply hurt religious fanatics. So what really brought the flack is worth pondering?
Well, Leila is a dystopian story based in the late 2040s with two ominous themes dissecting each other. It’s a society where the water crisis has engulfed the metropolitan and people go as far as purchasing illegal water to fill their swimming pools. At the same time, we are in a fascist state, in the world of Aryavarta ruled by totalitarian leaders willing to uplift pure Hindu race and deject the mixed ones, the Muslims and the depressed class. Aryavarta has sincere resemblance with the Third Reich and Orwell’s dystopian state Oceania from the novel 1984. Sandwiched between water scarcity and the totalitarian regime is a mother’s quest for her lost daughter. The gripping six-episode series ripples the developments in contemporary Indian politics and presents an exaggerated version of it.
What parallels can be drawn between Leila and the current political ecosystem?
Leila is primarily about a majoritarian government that subsequently becomes autocratic. A majoritarian government at the centre means a weak opposition who bestow weaker resistance towards autocratic decisions. Be it the regime of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Fransisco Franco in Spain or Winston Churchill in Great Britain; we have seen how majoritarian government have seldom tried to homogenize society. Contemporary politics is marked by right-wing governments all over the world. In India too, the Bhartiya Janata Party won a second term in May 2019 with an unprecedented mandate and as soon as the budget session of Parliament started, the saffron party tabled a plethora of bills and amendments, some commendable but some potentially exploitative. The RTI amendment bill was one such bill that weekend one of the most powerful weapons bestowed to citizens of this country to extract unclassified information from govt. agencies. Again, the UAPA bill which will allow Individuals to be declared as terrorists also got the presidential assent, meaning any individual if deemed appropriate by NIA can be declared a terrorist irrespective without any FIR, charge sheet, trial or conviction.
Leila’s story is also a sharp critic on the involvement of religious organizations in the country’s politics. Repeaters resemble the Hindu Yuva Vahini who commit vigilantism on common people. The state of Aryavarta is somewhat similar to Hindu Rashtra that many leaders and supporters of the present government yearn to establish. When BJP leader Vijay Katriyal claimed that Taj Mahal was built at the site after destroying a Hindu Temple called Tejo Mahalya people barely took cognizance of it. It was ridiculed and the politician was made a laughing stock. But TV channels conducted hour-long debates with religious and political leaders from both ends of the spectrum and made a fuss out of it. Leila’s dystopian world is where these things are taken seriously. There’s a scene in the show where Taj Mahal is being taken down by dynamite and people of Aryavarta are celebrating it.
The world of Leila has already irked a lot of Hindus who think that the series is over exaggerating the narrative of liberals. And that might be a reason for its poor IMDB rating. Scroll through the user reviews and you’ll see a lot of offended people. But the series which abruptly ends with suspense has raised important questions about power, politics and water.
Image Credit- Netflix