Disney+ Hotstar’s upcoming historical fiction drama, The Empire, premieres on August 27th. Creator, director and executive producer Nikkhil Advani had revealed that their aim was to make “the biggest show India has ever seen.” Based on the grand sets and scale of the show, it is already drawing comparisons with Game of Thrones.
Interestingly, The Empire is similar to Game of Thrones in terms of origin too. Like the British show, The Empire is based on a series of popular historical fiction novels – Empire of the Moghul by Alex Rutherford.
What Is It About?
Published between 2009-2014, Empire of the Moghul is a series of six fiction novels about the rise and fall of the Mughal Empire in India. The first season of The Empire is based on the first volume – Raiders from the North. The books are rich with drama and politics, focusing on the internal rivalries and bloodshed within the Mughal royal family. The first volume begins during Babur’s ascension to the throne in Samarkand, Uzbekistan and follows him over twenty five years of losing one empire and conquering and building another.
What Makes It Different?
Every volume in the series follows one emperor. The author portrays the Mughals as a dynasty where everyone plots against their own sons and brothers, following a mantra of “Throne or Coffin.” Very little is known about the women of the Mughal royal family, and these books attempt to fill those spaces by involving them in the politics of the empire. Women across generations – queens, wives and mothers – plot and plan to ensure it is their brother, husband or son that sits on the throne. Shabana Azmi’s Aisan Daulat is one such complex character. She’s the kingmaker – guiding Babur after he inherits the throne and the empire. Mandira Nayar, reviewing the second book Brothers at War for The Week, said that these books “transform the card-board figures of the Mughal emperors … into human beings”.
Who Is Alex Rutherford?
Alex Rutherford is the joint pen-name of writers Diana Preston and her husband Michael Preston. They studied History and English respectively at the University of Oxford. They were non-fiction writers but became interested in writing a fictionalised account of the Mughals while researching for a book about the Taj Mahal. They created the name Alex Rutherford to set this series aside from their previous works. The Prestons travelled extensively for their research into these books. While most readers love the sweeping terrain and pristine locations described in the books, some have raised concerns about a westernised gaze.
The Empire’s first season follows Babur and his years as emperor. It stars Kunal Kapoor as Babur, Drashti Dhami as his elder sister Khanzada Begum, Dino Morea as this season’s villain – Shaybani Khan and Shabana Azmi as Aisan Daulat. Directed by Mitakshara Kumar, the show will stream on Disney+ Hotstar.