‘Maharaj’ (2024) Cast And Character Guide

Maharaj, the brand-new Netflix India original film is an interesting movie that takes on religion and faith. It does not question the institution of religion, but rather the people who proclaim themselves to be above it and consider themselves to be God. Furthermore, it also throws light on such people who commit crimes in the name of their faith and get away with them. Maharaj is based on the true story of a man who lived in pre-independent India in the 1840s and took up a legal battle against a godman who assaulted women in the name of faith and considered himself to be above the law. The movie has many interesting characters who speak in favor of the social reformer, while many others support the godman blindly. 

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Spoilers Ahead


Jadunath Maharaj

Actor par excellence Jaideep Ahlawat, as the godman Jadunath Maharaj, aka JJ, aka Maharaj, is the key character who has all the negative shades seen in a villain. The film’s main plot involves the clash of ideologies and philosophies between Karsan Das Mulji and Maharaj. Maharaj has countless devotees who will believe every word of his. The man deliberately misinterprets holy books as per his convenience. The man has been in power and an influential figure for many years, as per the conversation between the people of the city of Bombay. However, Karsan Das stood up to him despite fearing violence and ostracization by their community. Maharaj takes advantage of the faith people have in him. He uses religion to bring devotees under his influence and resorts to raping women and minor girls. He is a classic case of a narcissistic man who refuses to give up any of his power. 

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Maharaj’s gratification comes from his power to control the people. This is the reason for his hatred for Karsan Das and the extent to which Maharaj went to squash the young journalist. He uses every trick in the book to keep Karsan Das from exposing his dirty deeds. The only power he has against Karsan Das is to file a defamation case. Despite the confidence he has in his influence, he must knock on the doors of the court. Only a presiding judge will decide the fate of him and Karsan Das. 


Karsan Das Mulji

Junaid Khan, in his debut role as the historical figure Karsan Das Mulji, is all about asking questions about faith and religion. He is a pragmatic man in the film who does not stop at asking questions but goes ahead and makes people think rationally. He initially questions the ritual of young women, including minors, being forced to spend time with Maharaj in the name of ritual. There is also the ritual of a newlywed woman spending her first night with the godman instead of her husband. 

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Karsan Das begins to question every move Maharaj has taken and requests people to look beyond his façade of being equivalent to God and treat him as a vile human who is violating women and committing crimes. Karsan Das does not just start his own newspaper, the newspaper starts with a long article about Maharaj and his vile conduct. His article receives recognition, but the journalist faces flak from the devout, fueled by Maharaj’s words himself. This is followed by a defamation case in the hope Karsan will be dragged down to bankruptcy. Karsan Das, however, is adamant and would go to any extent to fight for the people of his community, as he is now sure they are being fooled and brainwashed in the name of their faith. 


Kishori

Shalini Pandey portrays the role of the young, naïve girl Kishori, who is engaged to Karsan Das. Both were engaged at a young age, and the man has been in love with her for many years. His only wish is to watch her finish school and complete her education. Karsan speaks up in favor of female education, yet Kishori finds studying a hard job as she’s been brainwashed into thinking she must take care of her husband from right after the wedding. Kishori is devout, just like every other family, and bows down to Maharaj’s request that she conduct the auspicious Charan Seva. While Kishori agrees to do this, Karsan Das is disgusted by this ritual, which includes having to sleep with Maharaj as he is considered God by the community. Kishori, being a woman who has been raised in this community and under its religious beliefs, does not question Maharaj, who is treated with the highest regard. 

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Karsan Das broke off the engagement because of the ideological difference, and Kishori soon learned the godman planned to sleep with her sister under the guise of the same ritual. Kishori belonged to an era when faith was revered above all. She sadly got sucked into it without realizing it will eventually affect her.


Viraaj

Sharvari Wagh, also known as Viraaj, is a young woman belonging to the same community as Karsan Das. She is fascinated by his take on women empowerment and the fact that he stood up to Maharaj. She has a sad history with the godman, which she later shares with him. Her abysmal experience, which was forced on her in the name of Charan Seva, makes her believe in Karsan Das and his belief system. Viraaj is in love with Karsan, who politely declines her offer of marriage. Viraaj, however, chooses to work with him at his newspaper and helps him build a strong case against the godman in the wake of the defamation case against Karsan Das and his newspaper. 


Giridhar Khawas

Jay Upadhyay, as the devout Giridhar Khawas, who is the closest aide to Maharaj, is the only person who never questioned his boss. The man stays loyal to Maharaj and is aware of all the awful things the godman has done by abusing his power. Giridhar refuses to turn his back on Maharaj in the wake of trouble rising as Karsan Das wreaks havoc by questioning everything regarding the godman. Giridhar is also the one who offers sound advice to Maharaj, but he ends up being put down by his boss. The aide also happens to never say no to Maharaj, which only indicates that the godman treated him like a slave.


Leelavati

Priyal Gor is Leelavati, the only woman who was willing to talk about the Maharaj to her and other women in the name of faith and proclaiming himself to be the next kin of God. Leelavati is forced to sleep with Maharaj in the name of Charan Seva. On becoming pregnant, she is advised to carry out an abortion. Eventually, it is learned that the woman is still pregnant, never went ahead with the procedure, and moved away to another town to stay away from Maharaj and his devotees. Karsan Das’ hopes rest on her agreeing to speak up against Maharaj. Karsan Das’ hope relies on the fact that many women will come forward after witnessing Leelavati’s courage to speak up about the atrocities she went through. 

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Vahuji

Meher Vij, as the wife of Maharaj, is the first-hand witness of his atrocities towards women in the name of faith. Just like any wife of that era, she is forced to remain mum, for her husband is a powerful man, and she will fall victim to the mob that will surely go into a frenzy if she agrees to speak up against him. Even though she never directly stands up to him, she shows her support for women; for example, she is the one who makes sure Leelavati does not go through with the abortion. Vahuji supported Karsan Das’ crusade against the vile godman, but she could never openly support the young journalist. 


Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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