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I would watch videos of Bihari politicians to prepare for Maharani, says Sohum Shah

The actor, who plays the role of a chief minister in the show, spoke about the steps he took to bring the character to life.

Suyog Zore

Sohum Shah plays a fictional Bihar chief minister, Bheema Bharti, who is married to Huma Qureshi's character Rani Bharati in the SonyLiv political drama web-series Maharani.

The career of Shah, who was recently seen in Disney+ Hotstar's The Big Bull (2021) alongside Abhishek Bachchan, has seen a slow but steady rise. After working in the critically acclaimed Ship Of Theseus (2013), he essayed a small but important role in Meghna Gulzar's Talvar (2015). After playing supporting characters for few years, Shah finally got his first big break in Tumbbad (2018)

The Rahi Anil Barve-directed film not only cemented Shah's place in the industry as a talented artiste but also as a visionary producer. The horror film, which had been in the making for six years, was produced by Shah himself. The actor-producer spoke to Cinestaan over the phone about Maharani and the preparation he had done to bring his character to life.

Shah was brought on board just a few days before shooting commenced for the project. "So there was hardly any time to do in-depth research and prepare for the role," Shah said. "But thankfully I got a lot of help from our show's creator Subhash Kapoor in learning the Bihari dialect. Subhash Sir speaks fluent Bihari so he used to teach me how to pronounce certain words. Our writer Nandan Sir also hails from Bihar. He also used to be on the set and would guide me," he added.

Apart from learning the dialect, Shah also had to learn the body language of politicians from the Hindi heartland and he would assiduously watch videos of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar, the former and sitting chief minister of Bihar respectively.

There were some reports that the show is based on Yadav's wife Rabri Devi, but Shah refuted all such stories. "No, no it's a completely different and fictional story. After the trailer launch, many assumed that it is based on a certain political figure, but it's a completely fictional story. Just because it's set in Bihar, people are saying this," he said.

Sohum Shah in the SonyLiv show Maharani

Asked what was the most challenging aspect of this role, Shah revealed that the scenes where he had to act like a leader and engage in politicking came quite easy for him, to his surprise. "I didn't find it that difficult to perform those scenes because they had a larger-than-life feel to them, and it came quite naturally to me. The hardest part was Bheema's relationship with his wife Rani. They share a very unique bond. Even though he is CM of a state, his wife still scolds him. So preparing for that part was tough for me." he said.

The trailer of the show indicates that Shah's character is bedridden for the most part and this aspect proved novel for the performer. "I had never played a role where I was not allowed to make many movements like hand gestures to express myself, so it was a unique experience for me. I got to learn something new. But there were some perks too. In between the shots, I nap on that bed only," he said.

Shah said that the drama helped him broaden his understanding of the Indian political scenario. "When you have to play the character of a politician you have to try to understand where he comes from and what is his thought process," said the actor.

The show also made him realize that before making assumptions about something or someone, we should analyse them deeply. "We have a very narrow perception of politicians. This is built up by whatever we see something news channels and social media. And that's how you decide whether this man is right or wrong. So while I was playing the character of Bheema Bharti I realized that I did agree with him on certain issues and his ideology. But it's not like he is a saint; he is also a flawed character like everybody else in the show, but I could understand the reasons behind his actions. Some of his decisions might be questionable but his intentions and ideology were not."

Asked what sets the show apart from other political dramas, Shah responded, "It's very unpredictable. Things take a turn quite rapidly. It's a little larger than life and over the top but at the same time contemporary."

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