Series Review: Kaun Banegi Shikharwati (Who’ll become Shikharwati)

Series Review: Kaun Banegi Shikharwati (Who’ll become Shikharwati)

Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Raghubir Yadav, Soha Ali Khan, Lara Dutta, Anya Singh, Kritika Kamra, Cyrus Sahukar, Varun Thakur

Directors: Gauravv Chawla & Ananya Banerjee

A crumbling Rajasthani palace, a grumpy old titular king, four daughters with contrasting personalities and a loyal royal Man Friday set the stage for this brand-new 10-part comedy series on ZEE5 Global. The promise of some sumptuous shots from the northern Indian state known for its opulent havelis and palaces is a good premise to attract a global audience to what has been dubbed a dysfunctional royal family dramedy.

Maharaja Mrityunjay Shikharwati a.k.a. King (Shah) is pottering around with his guns as his ancestral palace and the village of Shikharwati lie in a state of disrepair around him. His only companion is his faithful aide Mishraji a.k.a. Friend (Yadav), whose dyed black hair symbolise an ageing system trying hard to keep up appearances.

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When the tax man comes knocking to collect long-overdue bills, the King and his Friend hatch a plan to bring the palace’s four warring princesses – Devyani (Dutta), Gayatri (Khan), Kamini (Kamra) and Uma (Singh) – back to compete in some cleverly devised royal games to be crowned the heir of Shikharwati.

The tax man’s threat of palace foreclosure over unpaid dues within a month is kept well under wraps as the King gets carried away with the idea of his daughters bonding under one roof again. Devyani’s perfectionism, Gayatri’s asceticism, Kamini’s social media influencer lifestyle and Uma’s gaming app focus could not make the siblings more different from each other. Despite a close sisterly bond as kids, the four drifted apart in the wake of the untimely death of their mother. Feeling partially responsible for this rift as a struggling single parent, the King is determined not only to fix things between his children but also their resentment towards him. Will he, with a little help from his Friend, succeed in uniting this dysfunctional family and save the Shikharwati legacy from complete ruin?

The series kicks off on a very promising note, with beautifully shot scenes and elegant costumes. What lifts this setting further is the sheer acting prowess of veterans like Shah and Yadav. The comic setting of this tale hides behind it some very serious social commentary – from the struggle of the princely states of India to come to terms with their lost royalty and an age of social media that threatens to wipe of some of the most valued traditional Indian arts and crafts.

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These set of serious subject matters is handled deftly through the contrasting personalities of the four princesses, played to perfection by the lead actors. Overall, this new addition to the streaming platforms is a real treat as an entertaining light-hearted watch that also briefly transports you to the heartlands of India.

It will prove hard not to binge-watch as the royal games unfold.

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