The 6-episode series is set in a dystopian future where society thrives on categorization, pollution has reached extreme levels, poor are thrown out of the civilization and women’s status has stooped low and much more. But the question is should you stream Leila or skip it?
It’s 2040’s. The country is called Aryavarta, where purity is a law and the motto is peace by segregation. People are divided by caste, class and religion. Clean air and water are no less than luxury only rich can afford. The poor are thrown outside of the “civilized” nation with no access to water or sanitation. A great wall divides the rich and poor not just metaphorically but physically.
The story begins with a happy family. The couple – Shalini (Huma Qureshi) and Rizwan Chowdhary (Rahul Khanna) and their daughter Leila (Layesha Mange) are enjoying in the swimming pool. It is a chirpy moment until some men attack them, killing the husband and capturing the wife.
There is a gap of two years after which Shalini is shown to live a pathetic life in Vanita Mukti Kendra. The so-called Women’s Welfare Center aims to purify the women who have married men outside their community by treating them inhumanely. From being drugged to beaten badly, the women face everything so that they become eligible for the “purity test”. And whoever breaks the rules, she gets punished. With one is forced to marry a dog, other is killed through poisonous gas during the “purity test”.
The series follows the journey of Shalini who fails the “purity test” and breaks free when she is being shifted to the labour camp for a lifetime of hard work.
What follows is the gloomy picture of the future world and the struggles of Shalini as she tries to find out the whereabouts of her daughter Leila.
Based on Prayaag Akbar’s novel of the same name, Leila is co-directed by Deepa Mehta, Shanker Raman, and Pawan Kumar. One of the best thing about this Netflix series is that it dares to draw a parallel between contemporary issues society and further tries to portray what will happen in the future if we continue on the path of hate and division. It tackles a plethora of themes like water shortage, air pollution, social hierarchies, inter-caste marriages, the subjugation of women and so on while making continuous commentary on the practices through different characters.
We also applaud some of its strong characters. Huma Qureshi, for instance, does great justice to the role of Shalini. In many scenes, we see a closeup of her facing – letting just see the emotions, the struggles, and bareness of her character. She is a mother who would do anything it takes to get her daughter back. Some other noteworthy performances are of Seema Biswas as Madhu and Manish Methri as Roop. Siddharth as Bhanu is also an interesting character carrying its own shades of grey. Throughout the series, we are left guessing if he is a well-wisher or the villain for Shalini.
The building of the story seemed a little scattered. The first episode, for instance, is quite quick and without giving much of the background about why the attack happened, takes a two-year leap. Also, we are restricted to the viewpoint of Shalini and thus, the story only follows where she goes.
Along with following the various themes, Leila ventures on a story of personal revenge and chase instead of diving deep into the new terrifying reality. The scenes are fewer futurists and seem more from the current world. The sets and production also lack the futuristic approach.
No doubt there are some shortcomings, but the series is worth watching. It plays a pretty good role in foreshadowing what will happen if the world blindly follows hatred and division. There are some lessons like how children can be brainwashed to believe in a false and wrong ideology. So, if you wish to see how things can go wrong in the future, we would recommend you watch Leila soon.
Here is the trailer.
Piyush Pande Films