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Critics Review
Kaun Banegi Shikharwati review: 'Goofy' Naseeruddin Shah, Raghubir Yadav could only try to save this humourless series

The poorly written screenplay couldn't even save the meaty star cast including Lara Dutta, Soha Ali Khan, Kritika Kamra and Anya Singh.

2.0
Aishwarya Vasudevan
Jan 07, 2022
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Story:

Raja Mrityunjay (Naseeruddin Shah), the lonely, broke sovereign of Shikharwati, lives alone in his decaying palace with his many eccentricities and a trusted advisor, Mishraji (Raghubir Yadav). The show begins with the obstinate eccentric 'King' encountering a pressing problem. He has ignored government notices for six years and now faces eviction if he does not pay a whopping amount of Rs 32 crore in wealth tax. He continues to live in denial, as he has since his wife's (Charu Shankar) death 15 years ago, and he refuses to pay attention this time as well. Mishraji, the wise and pragmatic ruler, is desperate to save the palace, his only home.

To make his Raja see sense, he concocts an elaborate ruse in which he invites the King's estranged daughters (Lara Dutta, Soha Ali Khan, Kritika Kamra, and Anya Singh) to compete in a royal contest for the throne and an apparent (and non-existent) prize of Rs 200 crores. The daughters, who despise each other and their father, are each going through a difficult time in their lives and would love to win 200 crores (who wouldn't?). As a result, the seemingly silly games to announce "Kaun Banegi Shikharwati" begin.

Review:

Kaun Banegi Shikharwati has been receiving immense attention for various reasons, such as Naseeruddin Shah's second OTT outing, an ensemble cast including Lara Dutta, Soha Ali Khan, Kritika Kamra, Anya Singh, and also the constant comparisons with the hit South Korean series Squid Game. These are mostly the pluses of the ZEE5 original series, and they are good enough. However, the overall concept is just not there and fails to strike a chord from the start itself. 

Kaun Banegi Shikharwati comes off as a spoof comedy, and I don't know what to make of it. The leading ladies can't stand each other or even their father (Naseeruddin Shah), whom they just abandoned after he brought out the ugly competitive spirit in them. 

Each character has their own parallel stories, which kind of don't even overlap with each other. It's just the stubbornness that brings the family together, who have been leading separate lives without indulging each other in any way. 

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Lara Dutta, as the king's oldest daughter, Devyani Shikharwat, is a bristling perfectionist and subconscious bully in search of a utopian perfect life. Soha Ali Khan plays the second daughter, Gayatri Shikharwat, a vulnerable isolationist hiding a deep secret. Kritika Kamra shines as the third daughter, Kaamini Shikharwat, an endearing social media influencer who is a directionless, insensitive extrovert. Anya Singh plays Uma Shikharwat, the youngest daughter, who is an underdog and a fearful introvert, chasing a rainbow and always pretending to be stronger than she is.

Their characters are pretty much established in the first episode and, thus, they eventually land up at Shikharwati Palace to be with their ailing father, whose last wish is to see them together. Not just that, he wants one of them to become the heir after he passes on. Thus begins the nonsensical competition, which even the characters find ridiculous. Maybe they were not acting per se. 

It's just a predictable culmination of royal games to find the king's successor by testing their culinary skills, gardening skills, and horse-riding skills, all put under the category of Navarasa - Shringara (love/beauty), Hasya (laughter), Karuna (sorrow), Raudra (anger), Veera (heroism/courage), Bhayanaka (terror/fear), Bibhatsa (disgust), Adbutha (surprise/wonder), and Shantha (peace or tranquillity).

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The dysfunctional family has never-ending drama with heavy dialogues that just don't fit the narrative. There are several scenes that are quite repetitive, and it seems the makers want to make it clear to the viewers if they didn't understand it all the first time.

The only saving grace in this series is the banter between Shah and Yadav, which will remind you of Akbar and Birbal. Yes, Yadav as Mishraji is shown as the smartest of all who has to spoon-feed the King only to make him take the issue seriously. 

The child actor who played Soha's elder daughter, Padmasana, is one of the major highlights of the series. Her straight-faced humour and dialogue delivery catch your attention. Of course, she doesn't act her age, going by the background she has been living in. 

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The lead actors, Lara, Soha, Kritika, and Anya, are just there and failed to leave any impressive mark with their performances. It is one hell of a meaty cast set against the backdrop of a royal family. Apart from the beautiful palace and location where the 10-part series has been set, there's nothing royal about Kaun Banegi Shikharwati

The other supporting characters, Cyrus Sahukar, who plays Lara's onscreen husband, Harsh Goel, and Varun Thakur, as Roop Singh, from the neighbouring princely state, try to bring a few lighter and suspenseful moments. But in turn, their parts have just become predictable and very old news. 

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Kaun Banegi Shikharwati is a dated concept and not something with which you want to start your year with. Writer Ananya Banerjee, who has also co-directed the series with Gauravv K Chawla, looks pretty lost, just like how people try to find a way out of a huge palace. 

The direction falters only because the writer is majorly flawed and not something that will make you go past the first episode, or maybe two or three. 

Like mentioned earlier, the only pluses of the series are overshadowed by the boring and faulty screenplay. Nobody could save the series, no matter how much they must have tried to do so. 

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Verdict

Kaun Banegi Shikharwati should rather have been "Kyu Hai Yeh Shikharwati?". There's a dialogue by Raghubir Yadav that says Shikharwati should be at the heart of the people. Sorry, not happening here! 


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