Let’s Build Humanity, Not Walls
Returning again for another slice of dystopian drama, Leila returns with its second episode, picking up where the first left off, with Shalini running away and making her way through the slums with her pursuer Bhanu on her tail.
In a bid to escape, she winds up in a room with caged children where she saves a little girl called Roop. She takes a liking to her as she reminds her of her daughter and promises to give Roop money if she helps her reach the highway. From here, we then find out about Roop’s back story where we learn she was on her way to see her uncle when Roop and her brother were caught and sold into slavery. Roop now wants to find her brother and buy him back which she plans to do with Shalini’s money.
They then make their way through rubbish-littered dumps but are unfortunately seen by Bhanu who hasn’t given up his chase. As he runs after them, we flashback to Shalini and her family watching the news of the Taj Mahal being destroyed. Her brother Naz exclaims that the walls should be built to protect them which causes disagreement and discord with his brother-in- law. The couple explains that they have decided to move to the East End which is where we cut back to present day.
Shalini and Roop struggle to go through the gates to reach the highway where they’re sadly separated. Roop gets taken away by soldiers for trying to desecrate a statue of Joshi while Shalini begrudgingly presses on, eventually making it to her parent’s house where she hopes to find Leila.
Unfortunately, she only finds her parents who tell her that her husband is dead and they don’t know where Leila is. She’s also reunited with her brother Naz who is not happy to see her. He confronts her, blaming her for her current predicament. After telling her she’s not part of the family anymore, she hear an ominous knock at the door; Bhanu, having been previously tipped off by Naz, arrives to take her away to the labour camp. Her mother hugs her goodbye but not before telling her to remember Project Balee when she goes looking for Leila.
As she reaches the labour camp, Shalini finally has time to grieve the loss of Roop. The episode then ends with her looking out the window and seeing firsthand the contrast between the rich and poor divide of the country.
Leila delivers another good episode with some beautiful long shots showing the devastation in this dystopian world but never too far from reality; the mountain of rubbish, polluted air and even the black rain are call-outs to the current issues we have in the world today. Seeing a soldier on top of a toppled car while storm clouds blacken and crackle with lightning thanks to polluted factory smoke is a beautiful and haunting example here.
There are also some touching scenes between Shalini and Roop throughout the episode too, giving more emotional depth to the main character as she desperately looks for her daughter. As with the first episode, we see quite a bit of subtle exposition too, especially with all the graffiti scattered around the slums. One in particular delivers a meaningful and thought provoking message: “Let’s build humanity not walls”.
Seeing the harsh realities depicted in Netflix’s new series is a harsh reminder that this reality could be our fate in the near-future but again, the similarities to The Handmaid’s Tale with Shalini trying to get her daughter back feels very reminisce of The Handmaid’s Tale. Whether the show will shake this shadow or not remains to be seen but for now, Leila delivers another decent episode.