The eight-part Hindi web series Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo is streaming on Disney+. It is directed by Homi Adajania and stars Dimple Kapadia, Radhika Madan, Isha Talwar, Angira Dhar, Deepak Dobriyal, Varun Mitra, Udit Arora, Jimit Trivedi, Naseeruddin Shah.
Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo review
One of the complaints against the new web series, which has found the arrival of OTT platforms liberating, is they have kind of normalized sex and drug on screen. Such lament does not come from a place of conservatism and prudishness. Many of the such sequences tend to be gratuitous.
After the first episode of the intriguingly titled Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo, you understand that the protestations against such scenes are not misplaced. For, sex and drug-induced high scenes tumble out in profusion. Being sassy is fine, but it has to be backed with substance.
Given the story is about a women drug cartel and some of them have kinky taste in bed, such sequences may seem inevitable. Even cutting slack for that, there is an overkill of sex, violence and drugs that aren’t germane to the plot or the proceedings.
This sets the mood for the entire series, and you watch with constant misgiving that the director Homi Adajania is aiming for cheap thrills rather than pushing the envelope, which the story of a woman drug cartel otherwise suggests.
The series also suffers from a mismatch because the story is set in a rural hinterland (a cross between Gujarat and Rajasthan). Still, the sensibilities of the main characters are all in South Mumbai.
The story is about the spunky Savitri (Dimple Kapadia), who lords over a drug cartel and runs it almost as a women-centric cooperative. The non-nonsense matriarch, referred to as Rani Ba, operates her drug business under the camouflage of handicrafts and an Ayurvedic store. Her trusted lieutenants are her two daughters-in-law Bijli (Isha Talwar), who is stoical and realistic, and Kajal (Angira Dhar), who is more feisty and frenzied. The latter handles the everyday deals, while Bijli is the number-cruncher.
Rani’s daughter Shanta (Radhika Madan), a chemistry whiz, and her brainchild is the eponymous drug flamingo. Dhiman (Udit Arora), Rani Ba’s adopted son, is also part of the shady gang while her sons, Kapil (Varun Mitra) and Harish (Ashish Verma), are safely tucked away in New York (till they arrive). They don’t know what their mother, sister and respective wives are up to in their absence. The rival gang headed by Munk (Deepak Dobriyal) is thrown into this mix. Then there is the politico looking for more power (Naseeruddin Shah in a cameo) and ACP Proshun (Jimit Trivedi) who is in on the trail of Savitri and her nether operations.
The series has the potential to be like the impressive Aarya. This Sushmita Sen starrer also was about how a woman pushed into the drug trade and goes out of the way to save her children from getting sucked into the vicious vortex.
Here, the possibility of this being a heady oddball story is nixed by the fact that the director and the writers (Karan Vyas, Saurav Dey, Nandini Gupta and Aman Mannan) seem keener on easy thrills as sex and sleaze are allowed to dominate. Writing powerful women characters but rendering them primarily through their carnal desires seems belittling. Savitri has a foreign lover, Bijli’s sexuality is suppressed, Kajal has some kink, and Shanta’s is worse — all these undo the larger idea.
If you are trying to incorporate taboo and tough themes, like incest and sex trafficking, mount them on a serious canvas and not tag them on a garbled entertainer. When the climax arrives about who Rani Bai will choose as her successor, you are sick and tired of all the shenanigans.
But the saving grace is the acting of Dimple Kapadia, who is no stranger to Homi Adajania’s films. We saw her in Being Cyrus (2006), Cocktail (2012) and Finding Fanny (2014). Here she is compelling and brings to fore her experience to quick-fix the unevenness in the writing of her character. Radhika Madan as the troubled daughter, is convincing. Isha Tanwar, as the daughter-in-law, with her own desires, is top-notch. Angira Dhar as the other daughter-in-law, with some secrets inside her, is adequate.
The sons, Ashish Verma and Udit Arora, are quirky and fun. Deepak Dobriyal, in an unconvincingly written role, is a revelation and brings out the character’s eccentricities with impish delight. Naseeruddin Shah, Vipin Sharma (Munk’s lackey), and Sarika Singh (Prashun’s wife) all do a good job.
But it is the writing and director that is all over the place. The highs, like any drug-induced trip, are all artificial.
Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo
Director: Homi Adajania
Date Created: 2023-05-06 18:32
- Dimple Kapadia and Isha Talwar acting
- Women-centric ideas
- Plot too convoluted
- Rural setting but urban sentiments
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.