Maharaj Movie Review: Blind Faith & Social Melodrama

Rarely does one see the grand sweep of the big screen on an OTT platform. Director Siddharth P Malhotra's 1862 Libel Case retelling, meant for cinemas, is Bhansali-brand spectacular.


In a nut-shell:

Blind Faith & Social Melodrama

Maharaj Movie Star Cast/ Actors: Junaid Khan as journalist Karsandas Mulji, Jaideep Ahlawat as Maharaj, Shalini Pandey as Kishori, Sharvari Wagh as Viraaj

Maharaj Movie Director: Siddharth P. Malhotra

Maharaj Movie Release Date: June 21, 2024

Maharaj Movie Available On: Netflix OTT Platform

Maharaj Movie Released/ Available In Languages: Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil & Telugu

Maharaj Movie Run Time: 131 Minutes

Maharaj Movie Critic Review:

Rarely does one see the grand sweep of the big screen on an OTT platform.
Even if director Siddharth P Malhotra set out to make a feature film for cinema
halls, his retelling of the Libel Case of 1862 is Bhansali-brand spectacular.

There’s grandness in the visuals as Vaibhavi Merchant from the Bhansali fold
choreographs a Holi dance and Rajeev Ravi as DoP, films a sea of devotees
prostrating before godman Maharaj alias JJ (Jaideep Ahlawat). The faith of
staunch believers is manifest in the miles of followers lying with outstretched
palms for JJ to walk on. It is an unimaginable, unquestioning belief of entire
families of the Vaishnav sect that is chronicled by screenplay and dialogue
writers Vipul Shah and Sneha Desai who use author Saurabh Shah’s book
Maharaj’ for base material.

Siddharth Malhotra whose last outing was the successful Hichki (2018), unfolds
the true case of Maharaj vs journalist Karsandas Mulji (Junaid Khan) from the
revolutionary scribe’s perch. Karsan, curious, questioning, ready to champion a
social cause, pushing for widow remarriage.

Before him is the unwavering, unquestioning belief of Maharaj’s followers
which includes fiancée Kishori (Shalini Pandey) and her family.

It is when Kishori is chosen by Maharaj for what’s termed charan seva that an
epic confrontation is sparked off. Karsan sees it as sexual exploitation of
female devotees. To top the horror, the charan seva is even watched with
ecstatic devotion by followers. For Karsan, it is voyeurism. For devotees, it is
witnessing a blessing. Devotees, Kishori too, and her family consider it a
devotional service, a special favour bestowed by Maharaj on a devotee. It is
bhakti ras.

The Maharaj’s influence is like that of a powerful leader. Karsan’s newspaper
cannot reach his readers, he has to look for secret alternatives, new

Investigation by Karsan throws up more horrors about Maharaj’s adventurous
libido and sexual escapades which he exposes without fear. The tension
mounts. A blacker side of Maharaj surfaces to bring Karsan to heel and
apologise. But Karsan has missionary zeal. Neither will relent.

Aiding Karsan is ebullient Viraaj (Sharvari) whose very entry comes with a
spirited whistle. The Karsan-Viraaj track has moments of frivolity – he schools
her to distinguish between sa and sha, reminiscent of Nutan and Sunil Dutt in
the song ‘Sawan ka mahina’ (film Milan, 1967).

The drama is Hindi cinema high decibel. There’s a knot that Karsan won’t let
Kishori’s sister untie until he succeeds in unmasking JJ as a sexual predator
who has blinded his followers. Or there’s JJ shutting the dwaar (gates) to his
abode while fasting devotees wait to get his blessing before they can eat or sip

Irrespective of the outcome, a telling impact of the defamation case is the
difference between the grand entry of Maharaj in court walking over a path of
outstretched palms and his ignominious exit where he has to tread a road, no
palm in sight anymore. The path to an awakening?

Cinematically, Siddharth’s work is spectacular, dramatic.

But it has its problems.

Karsan shaming and rejecting Kishori takes the hero out of him very early in
the narration.

Jaideep Ahlawat, Shalini Pandey (dimpled a la Alia Bhatt) and Sharvari light up
the screen. But Junaid Khan could do with a bit more grooming in his chosen

Monologues (preachy ones in court) and too many diversions make it
unnecessarily lengthy. The route to reach the court for a defamation case is
circuitous and tiring.

Although it is Hindu vs Hindu and a true legal case, the regular references to
andh bhakts makes one wonder what the underlying relevance is.

Maharaj Movie – Watch Or Not?: Watch it for the main performers and for wide screen grandeur that’s available in the comfort of your home.

Maharaj Movie Review Score Rating:  3 out of 5 (i.e. 3/5)

Also Read: Hamare Baarah Review: Meanders A Dozen Times

Blind Faith & Social MelodramaMaharaj Movie Review: Blind Faith & Social Melodrama