Kaun Banegi Shikharwati: Ideal break from heavy or vacuous web fare

Kaun Banegi Shikharwati is a feel-good family fare. Photo: Instagram / Lara Dutta

A token “king” of Shikharwati in Rajasthan, Raja Mrityunjaya (Naseeruddin Shah) has four daughters, each estranged from him as well as from each other. They have all moved away to lead their own lives, and are cash-strapped in their own ways, besides having other problems. This has happened sometime after the Raja’s wife Mrunalini (Charu Shankar)’s death. It has been some years now (the script miscalculates a shade, given the mentioned ages of the Raja’s grandchildren!).

Mrityunjaya’s palace and the “kingdom”’s fortunes are at stake now: the wealth tax arrears have now mounted to an astronomical figure, the deadline for paying the sum is approaching, with the property at stake, and even the artisans in the community have moved to the neighboring Mewar district for their livelihoods, as Mrutyunjaya is doing nothing for them.

The king’s lieutenant Mishra-ji (Raghubir Yadav) and he now cook up a scheme to bring back the four daughters by the devious means of tempting them with a Rs. 20 billion-worth property. The eldest, Rajkumari Devyani Goel (Lara Dutta), has married a man (Cyrus Sahukar) whose schemes have gone bust and he owes Rs. 2.2 billion to a Dubai Don. Devu, as she is called, is a perfectionist and her hubby and two small kids are afraid to even talk with her. She cannot tolerate the slightest wrong note in anything, including music!

Daughter two, Rajkumari Gayatri (Soha Ali Khan) works in a dancing school as a teacher and has adopted two adorable kids, the almost-visionary Padma (Alisha Khaire) and the silent son of a monk, Dhanur (Noshang Tamang), and is petrified of dogs. Rajkumari Kaamini (Kritika Kamra) is a social media influencer with a huge following and is a phone addict of humongous proportions. The youngest is Rajkumari Uma (Anya Singh), she of the incredible allergies to everything.

Mrityunjaya’s ploy (along with his pretense of having just a few days to live) brings the four home, and Mishraji and he announce that he will organize nine games based on the traditional Navrasas, winner take all. The sisters cannot help take barbs at each other, and soon the competition heats up. But as the games continue, their hearts begin to soften, as they recall their great times with their mother, the songs they sang, and the promises she extracted from the eldest sister in particular.

Meanwhile, two threats loom—one for the Goels from the Dubai don, and the second from the revenue department for Shikharwati and its king. And slowly, love also blossoms between a rough-hewn and golden-hearted villager (Anurag Singh) and Kaamini, as also there is a hint of a relationship between Uma and her young colleague and admirer (Manek Papreja).

And so the hidden truths and secrets begin to unravel, with an agent from the revenue department sent as a kind of cat among the pigeons.

Kaun Banegi Shikharwati, with its modern tone and contemporary flavor is, in essence, a throwback to the good old times of heartwarmingly emotional Hindi family dramas with subtle lessons to learn. Loneliness, single parenthood, forgotten family values, altruism, human greed and need, everything is brought in minus preaching as the plot unfolds.

True, some of the games shown, such as the Shringas Ras or Bhayanak Ras, are quite absurd in concept. The games, though mildly amusing, only lengthen the episodes, as a world of good could have done to the series by curtailing each part to 25 to 30 minutes each, if they had to have 10 episodes, that is! I myself almost gave up the series after the first two seemingly unending and not-so-funny episodes until things started moving.

The two directors, Gauravv K. Chawla and Ananya Banerjee, collaborate neatly (Banerjee is also the writer) to finally deliver a feel-good, warm family series that marks a great break from the normal OTT thrillers, chillers and vacuous romances and comedies.

The humor here may not be uproarious, but it works with the subtle one-liners and visual angles, including in the character traits of the lead as well as some supporting artistes, like the deaf servant (Surendra Rajan), the dead-serious kid, Padma and her brother Dhanur. Even the odd-man out, Roop Singh (Varun Thakur) and the don’s emissary (Nilesh Divekar) have their moments here, and perform well.

The production values lend to a picturesque and bright narration, with excellent cinematography (Srijan Chaurasia & Linesh Desai) and production design (Priya Suhas & Vijay Ghodke). Anurag Saikia’s background score is an asset, and among the songs, “Chhan chhan” composed by Jivraj Singh-Nischay Parekh stands out, also for its erudite rendition by Kamakshi Khanna.

Naseeruddin Shah, getting a comic role after eons (was it the 1992 Chamatkar last?), has a blast, his outrageous looks and clothes adding to his portrayal. Raghubir Yadav is in perfect pitch as Mishraji and complements him wonderfully.

All the four sisters are impressive, but Soha Ali Khan stands out as the soft-spoken, caring Gayatri—it’s a heartfelt turn that shows her growth as an actress. Kritika Kamra is in Kareena Kapoor-Poo mode and resembles her even to a good extent in looks. It’s almost as if the director’s brief is that, but she is good! Lara and Anya are effective in their complex roles. Alisha Khaire is a fireball of talent, and Noshang Tamang is effective with his cute, silent smiles. Among the men, Anurag Sinha is excellent as the selfless villager.

Keep that smile as you tread the long Shikharwati mile. This one has its minus points in its minor glitches, but I suggest you do not miss the wood for the trees. Relax and have a pleasant time without taxing your brain or unleashing that adrenalin.

Rating: ***1/2

ZEE5 presents Applause Entertainment’s & Emmay Entertainment’s Kaun Banega Shikharwati Produced by: Sameer Nair, Deepak Segal, Monisha Advani, Nikkhil Advani & Madhu Bhojwani Directed by: Gauravv K. Chawla & Ananya Banerjee Written by: Ananya Banerjee Music: Anurag Saikia & Jivraj Singh-Nischay Parekh Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Lata Dutta, Soha Ali Khan, Raghubir Yadav, Kritika Kamra, Anya Singh, Anurag Sinha, Charu Shankar, Varun Thakur, Cyrus Sahukar, Surendra Rajan, Manek Papreja, Nilesh Divekar, Alisha Khaire, Norshang Tamang, Masood Akhtar Sp. App.: Dino Morea & others




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