ZEE5’s Taj—Divided by Blood sees Dharmendra’s OTT debut, international crew

Taaha Shah, Aditi Rao Hydari, Aashim Gulati and Shubham Kumar Mehra in ZEE5’s Taj—Divided by Blood. Photo: ZEE5 

ZEE5, India’s largest homegrown OTT platform and multilingual storyteller, released the trailer of one of the most anticipated series, Taj – Divided by Blood, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Dharmendra, Aditi Rao Hydari, Aashim Gulati, Tahaa Shah Badussha and Shubham Kumar Mehra in the lead.

The series, releasing on ZEE5 on March 3, chronicles the saga of Emperor Akbar (played by Naseeruddin Shah) and the ensuing blood battle between his sons for the Mughal throne, since Akbar decrees that merit, not age, will decide the future ruler of Delhi. The show was conceived five years ago and shot from 2021.

The 10-part succession drama series is produced by Abhimanyu Singh and Roopali Singh under Contiloe Digital with William Borthwick as Showrunner, Simon Fantauzzo as writer and Ron Scalpello as director. Aditi Rao Hydari plays Anarkali, Aashim Gulati is Prince Salim, Tahaa Shah Badussha essays prince Murad and Shubham Kumar Mehra features as prince Daniyal. Ajay Singh, Vibhu Puri and Prashant Singh are the co-directors. The international crew, stated the makers, helped give a fresh and objective angle to the stories that have been oft-heard in India.

The three queens are Sandhya Mridul as Jodhabai, Zarina Wahab as Salima and Padma Damodaran as Ruqaiya Begum. Rahul Bose stars as Mirza Hakim and Subodh Bhave, Aayam Mehta, Deepraj Rana, Shivani Tanksale, Pankaj Saraswat, Digambar Prasad and Zachary Coffin essay supporting roles.

While most stories on the Mughal era have been portrayed through rose-tinted glasses, Taj – Divided by Blood will showcase these figures as relatable human beings with ambitions, desires and flaws. A visual spectacle as the trailer indicates, Taj – Divided by Blood is replete with drama, politics, tragedy, jealousy, deceit, betrayal, love, lust and romance.

Director Ron Scalpello said, “I have been an avid follower of Indian (!) history, hence when I got the opportunity to put forth a series on the Mughal empire, I was ecstatic. Since there have been so many versions of 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. Also, the theme of war and succession is global, hence I am sure that the series will appeal to a global audience.” The director was in London and sent an audiovisual on the occasion.

Naseeruddin Shah, also absent, added in a media release, “The show unveils the inner workings that played out in the hallowed chambers of Emperor Akbar’s empire. While many have recreated the Mughal history, Taj – Divided by Blood has taken an unexplored and unchartered take on it, 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.”

Aditi Rao Hydari added, “I have always enjoyed history; there are always great stories, many of which are outside of our 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 she has been portrayed by the mesmerizing Madhubala in Mughal-E-Azam, and by Bina Rai in Anarkali. What made me take a leap was a meeting with the director Ron Scalpello and the writers William and Simon. 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.”

The three ‘princes’, had a gala time on stage with each other, and the entire team came together on stage for a photo-op. Zarina Wahab and Sandhya Mridul, incidentally, are sharing a frame 15 years after they last came together.

Dharmendra as Shaikh Salim Chisti, the saint from Fatehpur Sikri in Taj—Divided by Blood. Photo: Twitter / Dharmendra

But the highlight, apart from the lavish Mughlai dinner menu that peppered the climax on that windy evening at the Taj Land’s End poolside, was the double glimpse in the trailer of veteran Dharmendra. The legendary star, in the 64th year of his career, makes his OTT debut here, playing Sheikh Salim Chisti, the Sufi seer and saint of Fatehpur Sikri! Prince Salim (Jahangir) was named after this saint by his father.

Asked by newsindiatimes.com about how easy or otherwise it was to convince the actor to take up this small but significant role, Manish Kalra, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 India, replied that it was easy as the veteran actor was himself a poet and was looking for substantial roles at this stage and age. ZEE5, incidentally, celebrates its fifth anniversary this month in 190 countries and has set new records in its viewership.



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