Review: 'Kaun Banegi Shikharwati' Has an Interesting Premise But Doesn't Engage
Our take on Zee 5's new show 'Kaun Banegi Shikharwati' starring Naseeruddin Shah, Lara Dutta, Soha Ali Khan
Kaun Banegi Shikharwati is about a family, about Rajputs and about a Rajasthan that is not the dusty and desert land that it can be and we often see on screen. It's instead inspired by the more playful side of the state, colourful cities of pink like Jaipur and blue like Jodhpur. The show comes with a playful energy, in Wes Anderson like colours and compositions, something almost that sometimes looks like an Indian cousin of The Grand Budapest Hotel. The energy of the show is bright, sunny and energetic. The outfits, the characters, the portrayals of Rajasthan as a playground for history and comedy are all very exciting and new. It’s an American suburban bubble gum pop fantasy and there’s freshness in blending that with an interior India setting, which is usually reserved for more serious crime, gangster or social issue based plots such as Mirzapur, Gangs of Wasseypur and many, many such stories.
The story of Kaun Banegi Shikharwati is a sweet one, about family, lost glory and honour and equally about lost friendships and identities. Sisters who won’t leave the past where it belongs and kings and governments who won’t leave behind money or status where it belongs.
The story is about letting go of what you can’t change and repairing what you can while you still have time because life is short, fickle and time is rarely ever on your side. Never forget, the ones you love can be taken from you and you from them. Hold them close while you still can and that is a beautiful thing to take away and for anyone who watches the show, I hope they take away the same and follow through with it in 2022.
The story goes something like this. A Rajput king lives with his beautiful palace crumbling around him. With all past power lost, he owes the government, like all common people, much money in taxes. He is but a common man caught in the middle of a history lesson. He fears losing everything at the hands of debts and empty treasuries and the only way to save the palace, legacy and heritage would be to bring back the heirs of this dynasty and have them rescue what has been their family’s glory for centuries - his 4 daughters who are poles apart, who live far away from not only their father but also each other. Under a clever ruse he is able to bring the women back under the same roof after which begin games of silly competitions, bickering and ridiculous childish slapstick comedy. It is quite funny and stays true to its energy, never once becoming too somber or serious.
The daughters are in Lara Dutta the rich mans, urban, well spoken and ruthless trophy wife while Soha Ali Khan plays a mild, hippie hippie dance teacher in what looks like a lighter version of the Osho ashram, intact with Hindi speaking foreigners in shirts that say Om. She is sweet, kind, sentimental and perhaps my favourite of the four. Kritika Kamra plays an intolerable, irritating, on the nose social media influencer who is as good a satire of the ridiculous people society puts on a pedestal in todays empty materialist online economy. She is perpetually on her phone, dates cricketers for clout and has a terrible foot in mouth problem all thanks to her ditzy self involvement and finally we have Anya Singh, the socially awkward tech nerd with introverted tendencies and lots of allergies. The female characters are all a typical character types and while they’re fun to watch, they sometimes border on stereotypical and it is these polarising relationships and character types that create whatever conflict there is in the show. Through its fairly uneventful run, the show banks on these stark characters to create any kind of engagement with the story.
Their mother passed away years ago and in sweet moments of flashback we see happier times, better times, when they hadn’t all started hating each other and their father. Through funny games and very random antics, the father tries to, once again like in their childhood, pit them against each other.
The premise of the show is interesting and the screenplay is tight too, the acting, costumes and set design are wonderful and the direction is enjoyable. What though, makes for this interesting The Royal Tenenbaums energy, lacks in that kind of story.
The story is painfully thin and doesn’t hold tension or attention for very long. It is far too simplistic, thin and for all the stylistic execution, the show feels as though through its fluff and frills, its trying to distract us from the fact there really isn’t much to hold your attention for multiple hours. This, I feel, could’ve fared better as a film and not 40 minute long multiple episodes. To put it mildly, it’s not the greatest and its not bad but it is boring.
To watch it for the style and the acting would be something and to see Lara Dutta and Soha on screen is delightful considering one gets to rarely see them. You can almost see the smile on Naseeruddin Shah’s face as he enjoys himself in what could have been one of his easiest roles, the king, to date and Raghubir Yadav plays an adorable right hand man.
The show feels like a good premise that, with more detailing, could’ve been a more engaging watch and would’ve done a better job at bringing out the joyful, compassionate energy which it tries so hard to carry. Unfortunately though, for all its good intentions, it isn’t what it aspires to be.
Our Rating: 2.5 Quints out of 5
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