Photo Credit: Avantika Meattle/Netflix
Leila is Netflix's next original series from India. It is based on journalist-turned-writer Prayaag Akbar's 2017 book of the same name, which offers a look at class, privilege, and faith as it tells the story of a free-thinking woman (Huma Qureshi) in search of the daughter who was taken from her. Deepa Mehta, best known for her Elements trilogy — 1996's Fire, 1998's Fire, and 2005's Water — is the creative executive producer on the six-episode Netflix series, and also served as one of the directors and writers. Urmi Juvekar (Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!) was originally named as the showrunner, but she's only credited as an executive producer, and one of the adaptors on Leila, alongside co-writers Suhani Kanwar (Lipstick Under My Burkha) and Patrick Graham (Ghoul).
Set in the near future, Leila takes place in a fictional dystopian world called Aryavarta — the show was filmed in New Delhi — where totalitarian rules have divided society along the tenet of ‘purity', with giant walls separating a city into community-based sectors that are manned by heavily-armed guards. These divisions have further made life terrible for those on the margins, as they must deal with out-of-control pollution, a scarcity of drinking water, and overflowing landfills. There's a bit of a Handmaid's Tale vibe to Leila, though it's naturally more Indian in the specifics.
Here's everything you need to know about the Netflix Indian series Leila, including release date, cast, synopsis, trailer, review, and more.
Netflix has set a Friday, June 14 release date for Leila.
Qureshi (Badlapur) is leading the cast as the mother Shalini Pathak looking for her titular daughter. Rahul Khanna (Bollywood/Hollywood) plays her husband Rizwan Chowdhury. Siddharth (Rang De Basanti) stars as a character named Bhanu, who encounters Shalini on her journey to find her kid.
The Leila cast also includes Sanjay Suri (My Brother... Nikhil), Arif Zakaria (Nanak Shah Fakir), Seema Biswas (Bandit Queen), and Akash Khurana (Barfi!) in undisclosed roles.
“I'm thrilled to be essaying Shalini, whose unique mix of strength, grace and optimism is what gets her through all kinds of obstacles,” Qureshi said in a statement in March. “So it really has been an honour to portray a character that has not only pushed me as an artist but I believe will resonate with a lot of young women.”
“My character Bhanu is a complex one and playing him has been an intense yet fruitful journey,” Siddharth said. “Although the story Leila is set in a dystopian age, it is about human emotions.”
In addition to the aforementioned Mehta, directors on Leila include Shanker Raman (Gurgaon) and Pawan Kumar (Lucia). Mehta has helmed the first two episodes, with Raman and Kumar dividing the other four between themselves.
“At the heart of this series is the journey of a woman, in search of her daughter Leila, but also in search of identity,” Mehta said in a prepared statement in March. “Leila is about awareness, about paying attention, about looking at the world around us and asking pertinent questions about our future.”
Johan Heurlin Aidt is the director of photographer (DoP) on Leila. He has previously been a camera operator and second unit DoP on Ocean's Eight, and served as the cinematographer on Netflix's previous Indian original series, Delhi Crime.
Here's the official synopsis for Leila, via Netflix:
“In a digitised city, sometime in the near future, as an obsession with purity escalates, walls come up dividing and confining communities. Behind the walls, high civic order prevails. In the forgotten spaces between, where garbage gathers and disease festers, Shalini must search for Leila, the daughter she lost one tragic summer two years ago. Skirting surveillance systems and thuggish repeaters, Shalini — once wealthy, with perhaps a wayward past; now a misfit, pushed to the margins — is propelled only by her search.”
“India's first dystopian story, Leila is set in an imagined world, Aryavarta, in which there is great suffering, extreme and totalitarian rules of engagement and fictional extremes constructed around an obsession with purity, communal and divisive societal dramas and grit. Leila is the story of a mothers' imperishable maternal love for her daughter set in the political and emotional dystopia of Aryavarta.”
Netflix released the one and only trailer for Leila in May, which showcased its dystopian setting and set up the premise of the show. It also gave us our first look at several characters.
Netflix has set a review embargo for Leila until 10am IST on June 14.
Here you go: