Just the joy of watching two of India’s finest actors having fun on screen is reason enough to watch Kaun Banegi Shikharwati, an Indianized fable about King Lear and daughters-plus one. A fourth beti is added to Lear’s trio of ungrateful daughters for added weight.
Having got the ratio of dotage precociously in place, Naseeruddin Shah plays his king’s part with guffaws galore. Yes, he is enjoying himself. Whether the audience is able to share his party mood depends on how much of the trippy slightly juvenile mood of fun and games one can take in the name of a family entertainment.
The eye-light(not to be confused with highlights) are the four goodlooking leading ladies, all vying for attention by assuming various stages of desperate remedies to get Daddy’s attention. Daddy Naseer likes playing games with his drop-dead gorgeous daughters. Sometimes it is shooting lessons, at other times horsing around. Till the end I was not sure if the quartet of daughters enjoyed the games as much their Daddy did.
Lara Dutta(trying to bring some gravitas into the gallery of absurdist giggles), Soha Ali Khan(looking more lost than ever), Anya Singh(she is more talented that the industry is willing to accede) and Kritka Kamra(she really needs to get over her ‘Poo’ hangover) playing four scheming/uncaring daughters(not sure which applies to which, so shall we say all four are sometimes scheming,sometime uncaring, depending on who’s looking/not looking) do not appear too sisterly in their mutual kinship. And that’s fine.
They play estranged siblings, who couldn’t care less about one another. The eldest played by Lara Dutt has a husband(Cyrus Sahukar)who wants all of her Daddy’s wealth to pay off his debts. Then there is an income-tax officer masquerading as a house guest. And poor Anuraag Singh, once a talented Subhash Ghai discovery, now running around in a serial as some kind of subject to the royal family, trying to make his presence felt.
Maharaja Naseeruddin Shah never seems to have any respect for his daughters. No wonder they seem to dislike him. Shah is a hoot as the wacky royal highness, and Yadav a scream as his friend/sidekick. Among the leading ladies only Lara Dutta tries to make some sense of her role and her place in this zany serial where two little children, a solemn girl and a wordless boy, steal the show merely by keeping calm. They help to reduce the load of hysteria that this dysfunctional royal family lugs around like jewels in a crooked crown.
Kaun Banegi Shikharwati has its elements of surprise and fun. Its oddball trippy goofy crazy and spaced-out mood is not to be taken seriously. And that’s its biggest USP. It isn’t trying to sell us any serious message. It just wants us to join in the revelry, like a neighbour who insists you join his merrymakers at a New Year’s party when you are already in your pyjamas.