A curious casting decision animates the release of Maharani. In the new show, which drops tomorrow on SonyLIV, Huma Qureshi plays an illiterate homemaker who’s made the Chief Minister of Bihar. Largely fictionalized by creator Subhash Kapoor and his team of writers, the series is inspired by the story of Rabri Devi, the three-time former Chief Minister of the state. This makes Sohum Shah, who plays Huma’s onscreen husband, the unlikely stand-in for Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Granted, Sohum has played characters from diverse regions before, from a Maharashtrian in Tumbbad to a Gujarati in Simran and The Big Bull. Still, it’s a little hard to reconcile the lanky and soft-voiced actor with the portly grandee of Northern politics. “There’s no direct reference for my character,” Sohum clarifies when we mention the mismatch. “I watched videos of Lalu Prasad Yadav but also other politicians like Nitish Kumar. It’s a mixture of different figures. It’s a big, layered part actually.”
Though set in Bihar, Maharani was shot between Bhopal and Mumbai. Sohum, who is from Ganganagar in Rajasthan, says he wanted to visit Bihar but couldn’t. “I’m from a small town in the north so I understand the basic diction of the place. Moreover, our writers and director Karan Sharma helped me figure out the character and the world.”
Maharani is Sohum’s first collaboration with Huma. The two used to visit the same gym as newcomers in Mumbai. “Back then, we had a slightly different perception of each other. I knew her as the actress from Gangs of Wasseypur. We got to interact closely on Maharani. She’s a fine actor and a lot of fun to work with.” At home since the new lockdown, Sohum is thrilled for his second release of the year (after The Big Bull). Previously, he had appeared in a smaller role in the Netflix series Bard of Blood (2019).
“I think the reach of OTT content is uncontested,” the actor says. “I’m of the mind that if The Big Bull had been released in theatres it would not have been seen so widely. People who never watched movies, people who are in their 40s and 50s… even they have started streaming web shows. It’s a great time for actors because we have a lot more opportunities now.” As a producer, Sohum is assembling an anthology of ten horror movies. He’s also a part of Reema Kagti’s upcoming Amazon series Fallen. “I’m playing a cop in that show so that was a joy,” Sohum says. “We hope to release it by the end of this year or early next year.”