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Kaun Banegi Shikharwati Review

Lara Dutta nails her character’s daunting temperament, Soha Ali Khan’s sophistication is tailor-made for the part, Anya Singh conveys a tidy blend of shy and spirit, but it’s Kritika Kamra’s hilarious Kareena-fication that makes her the life of this willy-nilly game of thrones, observes Sukanya Verma.

An ageing king uses his inheritance as bait and lures his four daughters by putting them through a series of absurd tests.

He’s no King Lear but a royal old bat with a hefty wealth tax to pay off if he wishes to keep his palace.

All of 10 episodes, Kaun Banegi Shikharwati has hardly one Shakespearean bone in its farcical body.

Though it boasts of an exciting ensemble and a half-decent premise about estranged daddies and daughters juggling between royalty, reunion and rivalry, Director Gauravv K Chawla’s dull treatment and one-note writing by Co-Director Ananya Banerjee never lets the material enjoy itself, let alone be a role model for smashing the patriarchy.

Between its wannabe Wes Anderson vibe and 10-episodes of Adidas Originals advertising, Kaun Banegi Shikharwati piles on a navarasa-inspired theme for every consequent task assigned by Raja Mrityunjay (Naseeruddin Shah) to his four warring daughters, Devyani (Lara Dutta), Gayatri (Soha Ali Khan), Kaamini (Kritika Kamra) and Uma (Anya Singh).

Fashion, farming, cooking, comedy, the competition is as varied as it is vain ensuing in repeated cycles of humourless bickering.

Going by the script’s muddled objectives, it is hard to tell whether he has invited them over to save the palace or orchestrate a reconciliation.

Quirky is such an abused emotion in desi creativity, motives change as per convenience and it’s all fine because good ol’ idiosyncrasy.

A good deal of its half an hour episodes, give or take a few, are spent introducing and underlining their one-line descriptions over and over again.

So there’s Naseer as the loony His Majesty lording over a palatial property of Rajasthan sporting striped pajamas matching his drapes and sheets or colourful Adidas athleisure, either playing dead or pleased silly by his crazy schemes. While his partner-in-crime, royal advisor and custodian Mishraji (Raghuvir Yadav) dutifully carries out his master’s will, the betis are none too pleased.

Devyani is a sour-faced boss lady struck by the timeless perfectionist bug. Add a mousy husband (Cyrus Sahukar, the Jagdish Raj of timid hubby roles) hounded by underworld over loaned money and a pair of twins neither seems to notice, to this picture of domestic bliss.

Gayatri is an art of living specialist at an elite ashram where she hopes to be promoted as guru. She has a pair of adopted kids named after asanas, but she keeps calling them ‘lotus blossoms’. Padma is precocious. Dhanur doesn’t talk.

Kaamini is a Poo meets Paris Hilton brand of social media influencer. Neither pretty face nor pouting help when her foot-in-the-mouth syndrome faces social media backlash.

Uma is a socially awkward video games developer suffering from a serious case of allergy and anxiety.

Dominating, dumb, saintly, shy — the spectrum of stereotypes is duly covered as is every cliché screaming Rajasthan in Kaun Banegi Shikharwati‘s ode to monotony.

The siblings’s deceased mum, a doddering domestic help, a phoney prince, a resourceful local, a clueless pooch and a so-called legal investigation aspire to be part of its central imagery but are strictly relegated to the side-lines as the once close sisters desperately compete for dear dad’s prize and paisa.

Conditioned at a very young age to resent each other as a means to cope with their mother’s passing is just one of the many oddities Kaun Banegi Shikharwati tosses our way. Like, first, making a case for adoption only to completely wash its hands of it. But its limp jokes are far more detrimental than any of its skewed virtue.

No surprise then, the only thing that works are its actors.

Ever in excellent form, Raghuvir Yadav’s mastery to spew sarcasm or lace a moment with warmth is at full display even when the series appears to be on autopilot.

Naseeruddin Shah’s goofy old man delivers an authenticity if not the wit or zingers for full impact.

As for the million-dollar question behind Kaun Banegi Shikharwati, Lara Dutta nails her character’s daunting temperament, Soha Ali Khan’s sophistication is tailor-made for the part, Anya Singh conveys a tidy blend of shy and spirit, but it’s Kritika Kamra’s hilarious Kareena-fication that makes her the life of this willy-nilly game of thrones.

Kaun Banegi Shikharwati streams on Zee5.

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