Despite a solid act by Dimple Kapadia, ‘Saas, Bahu Aur Flamingo’ disappoints with a lacklustre story
Half-baked characters and disinterested writing brings an unconvincing guns and gore drama.
Starring: Dimple Kapadia, Naseeruddin Shah, Radhika Madan, Angira Dhar, Deepak Dobriyal, Isha Talwar, Monica Dogra, Vikram Pratap, Varun Mitra, Ashish Verma, Udit Arora, Marc Bennigton
A family of gangsters navigating the world of crime and maintaining personal relationships is a trope perhaps as old as the invention of celluloid. In Saas, Bahu aur Flamingo, writer-director Homi Adajania has adopted this trope to showcase the struggles of a matriarchal family led by a super-efficient and quietly powerful Savitri (Dimple Kapadia).
While the character of Savitri is well-written and performed, the other roles are unconvincing. Had there been greater effort to develop the choices and personalities of this motley cast of characters, this series could have become a truly engaging and entertaining experience.
This Disney+Hotstar series is about Savitri, an elderly Banjara matriarch from Rajasthan, who oversees an efficient drug manufacturing and distribution organisation run almost entirely by women.
Operating an industrial scale drug business under the guise of a handicrafts cooperative company called Rani Cooperative, Savitri and co grow a rare coca crop and manufacture a hybrid drug that beats the high of cocaine.
Savitri’s daughter, Shanta (Radhika Madan), has blended the home-grown cocaine, painstakingly nurtured in an underground cave with her chemistry skills to create ‘Flamingo’ — the current hot seller. Her daughters-in-law, Bijlee (Isha Talwar) and Kajal (Angira Dhar) manage this well-staffed operation with loyalists amongst tribal women who find a home with ‘Rani Ba’ aka Savitri.
Savitri’s sons, played by Ashish Verma and Varun Mitra, work vacuous corporate jobs and live disconnected lives in the US with an annual 12-day visit home during Janmashtami. The elder son (Verma) is a spoilt, drug addled creature of poor manners and terrible entitlement. The second son (Mitra) is vegan, gentle and well-groomed. Neither has a clue about the drug business that keeps them flush in dollars and lifestyle tech. Both hate their mother’s adopted son, Dheemant (Udit Arora), who also manages their mom’s business.
Savitri has a sworn enemy in rival drug lord-cum -spiritual guru-cum killer Deepak Dobriyal.
If all of this weren’t complicated enough, Shanta and her family have to grapple with mutual rivalries once their dark secret tumbles out for all to see. There’s a top narcotics cop hot on the trail of a Flamingo overdose case, and there are complicated parallel romances playing out for two key characters.
Layered stories with sub-tracks of different characters stuck in a deadly game of drugs and guns should have been more intense and immersive. Neither happens with this series. While Savitri’s reasoning for running a drug business and helping women with a real income makes sense, none of the other characters ever make you care or root for them.
For instance, Shanta keeps swaying to swanky headphones, looking a little high with her constant drug experimentation. When she is not sashaying to music or lounging about on makeshift lab tables, she is desperately seeking to find moments of intimacy with her lover. This character embodies reductionist portrayal of a liberated girl seeking her space amongst familial obligations.
This is just one of the many undercooked story tracks and half-baked characters on screen.
Adajania has introduced a mixed bag of personalities to populate a specific geography and situation. But it doesn’t hold water. It’s not credible that the sons, however spoiled or lost, would never have guessed about the family’s real source of income nor is it credible that both daughters-in-law would be grateful to do the grunt work of transporting drugs without actually asking for more.
For a multi-character dramatic story to engage, it is essential to build each character’s story individually and give it a convincing, deliberate arc. Perhaps the weakest link in this patchwork of the supposedly menacing and dangerous cast is that of Dobriyal. A philosophy-spewing, murderous villain with a touch of the pseudo-divine, doesn’t actually create fear or awe.
In terms of its cinematography, costume design, makeup and music, Saas, Bahu Aur Flamingo gets top marks.
Performances are efficient with Kapadia and Dhar delivering their best. Naseeruddin Shah makes an impact in a role that barely utilises his powerhouse acting. Portions of this series, though, verge on the caricature. Not much attention has been paid to actual development of the story, which is surprising because Adajania has succeeded in delivering nuanced dramas with quirky characters in very specific Indian settings like Finding Fanny and Being Cyrus.
This show is for those wanting an action-packed family drama with quick thrills. However, if you look for nuance and story, you may be left wondering if they vanished in the series’ flashy elements, as embodied by its titular flamingo.
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti