Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo is about girls, guns and gender flips

Dimple Kapadia plays the fiery Rani Baa is Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo. Photo: Trailer Video Grab 

It’s one humongous gender-flip, this series. The girls handle the guns and cause much gore with their gumption, while the men, except for two, are largely helpless onlookers.

Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo (wonder why the beti was not included in the title as she too plays an equally vital role) tells the tale of a clan running the Rani Cooperative in a small Rajasthan hamlet minus a police post. Their turnover is Rs. 500 crore. How is that possible? Well, this firm that markets textile and herbal medicines is actually a front for an incredibly big drug cartel with international as well as national custom.

Rani Baa (Dimple Kapadia), she with the much-traumatic back-story (including gang-rape and antagonizing a drug mafia leader known as the monk—played by Deepak Dobriyal) is the head of not just her clan but of her village and her business, powered by an incredibly huge solar-power plant.

Rani Baa has an adopted son, Dhiman, who is her trusted lieutenant along with an older man who is a staunch loyalist (could not find the actor’s name). But the vital assets in her business, apart from all the hamlet’s women who look up at her, are her two bahus (daughters-in-law), Bijli (Isha Talvar) and Kajal (Angira Dhar), each handling specific aspects, and daughter Shanta (Radhika Madan), the brain behind the making of their special drug, Flamingo. All these women are as intrepid in their business as they are at action, firing guns and using weapons to go straight for the kill.

The present-day story begins when, almost simultaneously, a politician’s son takes ill in Mumbai due to narcotic poisoning, and Rani Baa’s two sons, Harish (Ashish Verma) and Kapil (Varun Mitra) both come down from the US for their annual vacation. They are respectively married to Bijli and Kajal and live abroad singly, totally in the dark about their family’s real business.

Bijli has a girlfriend in Mumbai named Naina (Monica Dogra)—nowadays series can never ignore a homosexual liaison, just like old-time film distributors demanded fights and rape sequences!—and has no attachment to her husband anyway. To the world, Dhiman and Shanta are brother and sister, and that becomes an impediment in their love and lust for each other.

Things come to a head when the politician’s son later dies and a stubborn, dogged cop named Proshun Jain (Jimit Trivedi) is appointed to get to the root of the matter. The monk, meanwhile, has his own nasty agenda of vengeance. Rani Baa announces that she will soon name her heir or heiress, who can be anyone from her clan, and will run the show. This puts the cat among the pigeons. Rani Baa also has to deal with a shady Mumbai goon named Saheb-ji (Naseeruddin Shah) who was a kind of mentor to her, and an old flame, a Frenchman named Donze (Mark Bennington) apart from her family members who have developed new shades as they each would like to be the heirs.

So with her drug empire in danger from both the law and enemies, and a now dystopian family, how will it all end? Well, the series’ credit titles gave me a solid clue: ‘Created and Directed by Homi Adajania’. Yes, ‘created’ instantly means a look at more seasons to follow, and so there is a deadly cliffhanger after all the twists and turns and blood-letting and also a pile-up of bodies.

The biggest ace of Saas Bahu… is its director, Homi Adajania, the man behind quirky crime-fests like Being Cyrus (2004) and Finding Fanny (2014). A solidly dependable director for eccentric fare, he creates a world in which you want to go back as every episode ends. His characters are flesh-and-blood humans with ambiguous morals and some commendable virtues, no one is what he seems, and almost everyone has a back-story. Homi’s work in crime sagas is generally a very immersive experience.

Homi also has a yen for Naseeruddin Shah (shortchanged this time as there was no other character he could have fitted) and the redoubtable Dimple Kapadia: she is fantastic, as is Priyasha Bhardwaj, a fabulously expressive actress, as the younger woman who grows to be Rani Baa.

The other actresses are pitch-perfect, though Radhika needs to learn some variation in the way she emotes. Udit Arora as Dhiman is exceptional, as is Sarika Singh as the cop’s wife. Ashish Verma has a role that plays to the gallery and he does full justice to it. The rest are at least good—if not better. Deepak Dobriyal is menacing but routine.

Pats for Sachin-Jigar’s superb background music and Nilesh Desai’s camerawork are due, and the editing is generally sharp, occasional erring into languidness. The script is in sync with the mood of the story—a tale that may not be actually as plausible as is shown, but nevertheless, is engrossing and engaging.

Rating: ***1/2

Disney+Hotstar presents Maddock Films’ Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo  Produced by Dinesh Vijan Created & directed by: Homi Adajania  Written by: Saurav Dey, Aman Mannan, Nandini Gupta & Karan Vyas  Music: Sachin-Jigar  Starring: Dimple Kapadia, Isha Talvar, Radhika Madan, Naseeruddin Shah, Angira Dhar, Ashish Verma, Udit Arora, Jimit Trivedi, Varun Mitra, Deepak Dobriyal, Vipin Sharma, Mark Bennington, Sarika Singh, Monica Dogra & others




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