Saas Bahu and Flamingo review: Dimple Kapadia-fronted series is heady, a barrel of fun

Saas Bahu and Flamingo review: Dimple Kapadia-fronted series is heady, a barrel of fun

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In ‘Saas Bahu and Flamingo, Homi Adajania gives us a heady mix of genres – desi western, feminist fable, bursting with feisty women, laced with gleeful gore and grunge, and altogether a barrel of wild fun.

Savitri (Dimple Kapadia) is a drug lord (or lady, if you want to be like that), who operates out of a sprawling haveli in fictional Rann Pradesh, surrounded by her crack team comprising two daughters-in-law, Kajal (Angira Dhar) and Bijlee (Isha Talvar), and her daughter Shanta (Radhika Madan). The fearsome foursome rules the roost, with the help of snazzy satellite phones, friends in right places, and the enviable ability to stay three steps ahead of their enemies, which includes the slate-eyed Monk (Deepak Dobriyal) and his henchmen, and hot-on-everyone’s-heels cop Prashun (Jimit Trivedi ).

Their frenemies are always on their radar too: Savitri’s two sons Harish (Ashish Verma) and Kapil (Varun Mitra), bumming around in the US, back home on a break, clueless about their mother’s real ‘profession’, are more liability than asset; and a highly-placed politico (Naseeruddin Shah), who once helped Savitri find her feet, constantly calling in his favours, is now only on his own side.

The series kicks right in from episode one, which is a flurry of introductory passages: a powerful politician’s son falls frothing to the ground after ingesting a mouthful of adulterated white powder, and suddenly Savitri’s Rani Corporative, which is a cover for all things illegal, is in peril. A kickass charge of the female brigade at a raiding party is both efficient and exhilarating: as the camel-borne attackers fall dead or are skewered in unimaginable ways, we know we are in for a ride.

I couldn’t help feeling that ‘Saas Bahu aur Flamingo’ is much too prosaic a title for a series which goes full tilt at giving us a whirling, dizzying plot with multiple strands which sometimes straggle but tighten just in time. I got impatient in places when the series goes off on inconsequential, fuzzy tangents, but I never fell out of it.

And that’s because the people involved in the rumbustious story-telling, creator-director Homi Adajania, as well as his writers Saurav Dey, Nandini Gupta and Aman Mannan, are clearly having a blast.The dialogues are perky, except for one or two slips-ups: when a character says, for example, ‘yeh kya thaa’, you clearly hear ‘what was that’. The sound design is brilliant, with a very Sergio Leone beat to it; so is the cinematography, as wide and expansive as the Rann. It’s all very infectious.

The backstories of some of the chief characters, including our Supremo Savitri, round them off, making them full. That’s a plus. As also sustaining the drama– heightened and exaggerated and even outlandish in bits, as befits a series like this — over eight 50 minute episodes. The performances are all top notch. Dimple Kapadia has been in this territory before: in Kalpana Lajmi’s 1993 ‘Rudali’, she sported similar distinctive tattoos, the ghaghras and odhnis, the heavy silver jewellery. She reminded me of Shabana Azmi’s ‘Godmother’ when she hoicks a leg on a chair here. The difference now is that Kapadia has grown into her attractive face, making her sexy-as-all-get-out: she is effortlessly in command of the room, and the situation.

Ashish Verma’s Harish is a stand-out too, as he bashes his drug-addled brain into shape; Jimit Trivedi leaves an impact. Deepak Dobriyal is not as menacing as he looks, and everytime he comes on, there is a distinct dip in energy. But it doesn’t really matter too much, because the men are meant to play second fiddle. The series is clear where its sympathies lie, with the towering ‘saas’ and foxy ‘bahus’, and the close female associates who help run this Pablo Escobar-type enterprise. As the crack chemist cooking up things in her lab, ‘beti’ Radhika Madan catches the eye, but is in danger of coming off familiar, especially in the way she mumbles her dialogues.

The series comes to a perfect sequel worthy-halt, and I can’t wait to find out who the real ‘waaris’ is, in this dodgy family business: Savitri could really teach ‘Succession’s Logan Roy a thing or two, in the way she is always on top.

Saas Bahu and Flamingo cast: Dimple Kapadia, Angira Dhar, Isha Talvar, Radhika Madan, Deepak Dobriyal, Jimit Trivedi, Naseeruddin Shah, Ashish Verma, Varun Mitra

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