By: Mohnish Singh
ZEE5 Global is set to premiere its original series Taj – Divided by Blood, featuring veteran actors Dharmendra and Naseeruddin Shah, on the streaming platform on March 3.
Produced by Contiloe Digital, the 10-episode series is described as a revelatory tale about the inner workings and the succession drama that played out in the hallowed chambers of the Mughal empire.
The story, which will see Dharmendra as Sheikh Salim Christi, encapsulates the reign of King Akbar (Shah) who is on a quest to find a worthy successor.
It dramatises the rise and fall of the generations that follow, showcasing the beauty and brutality of this great dynasty, their passion for arts, poetry, and architecture, but at the same time their remarkably cold-blooded decisions with regards to their own family, in the quest for power, as per the official plotline.
The ensemble cast includes Aditi Rao Hydari as Anarkali, Aashim Gulati as Prince Salim, Taha Shah as Prince Murad, Shubham Kumar Mehra as Prince Daniyal, Sandhya Mridul as Queen Jodha Bai, Zareena Wahab as Queen Salima, Sauraseni Maitra as Mehr un Nisa and Rahul Bose as Mirza Hakim.
William Borthwick is the showrunner of “Taj” with Simon Fantauzzo as the writer and Ronald Scalpello as the director.
Shah called “Taj” a story of war, succession, and power set against the backdrop of the Mughal empire.
“While many have recreated Mughal history, ‘Taj – Divided by Blood’ has taken an unexplored and unchartered take on it, hence making it compelling for old and new viewers.
“A brilliant team from across the globe has brought this series to life and from whatever I have seen so far, I can tell that it is going to be one of the most riveting series of the year,” the actor said.
Hydari said she has always enjoyed telling historical stories, many of which are outside of textbooks.
“When I was asked to play Anarkali I was afraid as much as I was excited. Anarkali is an iconic character, her beauty and grace was considered unparalleled and enchanting beyond one’s imagination. I was intimidated at first and especially because of how it’s been portrayed by the mesmerising Madhubala in ‘Mughal-e-azam’,” she said.
The actor said she decided to come aboard the project after a meeting with director Scalpello and writers Borthwick and Fantauzzo.
“Anarkali has been written very uniquely and so it felt like a new challenge to take on. The collaborative nature of our discussions also really added to my journey into this world to make it my own. It has been a privilege and responsibility to play Anarkali and I hope that I have done justice to it,” Hydari added.
As an avid follower of Indian history, Scalpello said he is ecstatic to be a part of a series on the Mughal empire.
“Since there have been so many versions of the Mughal history, I did have to research a lot to unravel the unknown facets of these historical figures and that is where our show stands out as in ‘Taj – Divided by Blood’, you will get to see these historical figures as humans with ambitions, desires, greed, and flaws which is rather an unseen side of the empire.
“Also, the theme of war and succession is global hence I am sure that the series will appeal to a global audience,” he added.