The Empire, the Disney+ Hotstar series about the Mughal Empire which is set to release on August 27, was filmed partly in Uzbekistan. The show’s creator, director, and executive producer Nikkhil Advani says they were “lucky” to film it where the dynasty had its birth.
Based on the historical fiction novel series Empire of the Moghul, written by Alex Rutherford, the show depicts the rise and fall of the Mughal Empire. The book series tells the story of a young king called Babur from Central Asia’s Fergana Valley, and his early struggles in and around Samarkand, a major city in what is today Uzbekistan.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Advani said that although the story has been modified a bit, they have remained true to the book and its fans.
Mitakshara Kumar, who is making her directorial debut with The Empire, added that while the book had good descriptions of the locations and the backdrops, the script needed to have characters with different shades and stark personalities. “The book has a lot of details and it’s very tricky to choose exactly what you want to show on-screen. Also, when you bring these characters on screen, it requires the efforts of so many people from costume designers to set designers and the direction team. We took almost a year and a half to make this show. So, it’s been a very long process,” she said.
The series is being called India’s answer to Game of Thrones. Addressing this, Kumar said, “I hadn’t seen Game of Thrones when I was making The Empire. I don’t agree with the comparisons. But, if people are still comparing it, I will take it as a compliment.”
The series will feature Kunal Kapoor as Mughal emperor Babur, Shabana Azmi as Babur’s grandmother Esan Daulat, and Dino Morea as Babur’s nemesis Shaybani Khan.
Actors Aditya Seal, Rahul Dev, and Drashti Dhami also play pivotal roles in the series.
“There were two interesting things for me with this part,” Kapoor said about his character. “One was that the character was physically strong but had moments of emotional weakness. The other thing that I found interesting was, he becomes the king but he has an incredible amount of self-doubt about whether he deserves this or not.”
To prepare for his part, Kapoor said he read Rutherford’s novel and other books to understand the mindset and values of the people belonging to the era.
Azmi said she always wanted to play a historical character. “She is such an interesting character. You usually see a man being a kingmaker but in this case, the woman is. That excited me about the part. I am in love with the Urdu language and I got the opportunity to speak in that language,” the actor said, noting that there should be more such stories where female roles are given importance.
Talking about the character he is playing, Morea said, “Shaibani Khan is the most dynamic and interesting antagonist I have played in my career. I had to be a different person altogether – menacing, shrewd, and sometimes, downright scary! From the moment I put on my costume, I had to become that person. The detailing, complexity, and love and hate for this character is what makes him so special.”
The Empire is produced by Monisha Advani and Madhu Bhojwani of Emmay Entertainment. The show will be available in Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, and Kannada.