Femme fatales & feminist fable to boot | The Express Tribune

Riveting thriller Saas, Bahu Aur Flamingo (SBAF) takes us on a journey to a lawless North Indian desert town, where the matriarch Rani Baa, the impeccable Dimple Kapadia, of a family of drug dealers reigns supreme. The women of this little world are fearless, unapologetic, and unafraid to seize power, and live life on their own terms.

Through the eyes of these remarkable women, we witness the tug of war between reward and retribution that defines their unconventional family dynamic. As they reap the benefits of their illicit trade, they also pay the price for their intrepid ways. But make no mistake, these women are not victims, but architects of their own destiny, navigating a complex web of power, loyalty, and betrayal.

A masterful portrayal of the human condition where the lines between right and wrong, good and evil, are blurred making SBAF a captivating exploration of the lives of flawed, tough, and uncompromising women. The drama unfolds in a world that is both dark and beautiful, where the struggle for survival is constant, and the price of power is steep.

Dimple Kapadia plays mother-in-law Raani Baa, who with her two daughters-in-law Bijlee, Kajal, and daughter Shanta operate a clandestine opium cartel in a world unknown to the rest of us. These women are not your typical housewives, they are sharp, cunning, and have an unrelenting thirst for power and control.

Despite their facade of domesticity, the family harbours a dark secret, and their every move is calculated to maintain their grip on the drug trade. Raani Baa and her daughters-in-law have killer instincts and have mastered the art of manipulation to stay ahead of their competitors. Even their husbands, Harish (Ashish Verma) and Kapil (Varun Mitra), oblivious to their family’s true nature, are no match for the women’s cunning.

The characters in SBAF are multi-dimensional and layered, hence depict a wide range of personalities and quirks that make the story unique and intriguing. Each member of the family has their own agenda, and the secrets they keep are as varied as they are dangerous. For instance, one of the sons is a vegan, the other a drug addict, and their quirks only add to the family’s eccentricity. As the family navigates their complicated relationships and illicit business dealings, the audience is on the edge of their seat, wondering what will happen next.

The four women make harrowing journeys through trauma, challenges, and adversities, and unravel the untold stories of Raani Baa, Bijlee, Kajal, and Shanta who confront an array of hardships and struggles which result in forging their unique identities.

Savitri aka Raani Baa (Dimple Kapadia) who yearns for a peaceful life with her family, was catapulted into a vortex of darkness as her husband was brutally murdered before her eyes. In a heinous act of violence, she was subjected to gang-rape, betrayed by a trusted caretaker and forced to transform into a fearsome, cunning businesswoman. Raani Baa’s layered character emerges as a towering figure of empowerment, portraying the immense strength of a woman who has risen above unimaginable tribulations. She exudes both maternal tenderness and firmness, molding her sons to take up responsibilities that they were unprepared for, thereby striking a delicate balance.

The portrayal of Savitri’s metamorphosis into Raani Baa is a testament to the resilience and fortitude of a woman, who despite all odds, has succeeded in changing the established norms of society. SBAF is a poignant reminder of the struggles faced by women and their unwavering spirit to overcome them, serving as an inspiration for generations to come.

Bijlee (Isha Talwar), an enigmatic introvert is married to Raani Baa’s eldest son who is an addict and mostly absent, so she is discreet about her innermost thoughts and feelings and the series opens with Bijlee at a posh Mumbai club, indulging in a passionate tryst with her girlfriend Naina. She strikes a monumental deal for a drug called “Flamingo” before embarking on a journey to the remote town of Runjh, where communication is limited to satellite phones.

Bijlee’s inner turmoil is palpable, evident in the expressive eyes of Isha Talwar, who delivers her lines with an effortless poise. Her restrained emotions and calculated responses reveal her yearning for freedom, knowing that the path to liberation is a slow and arduous process. Through her struggles, Bijlee embodies the spirit of hope, striving for a brighter future.

As a symbol of resilience and perseverance, Bijlee represents a woman who refuses to give up in the face of adversity, determined to overcome the obstacles that come her way. The story of Bijlee is a powerful reminder that hope can shine through even the darkest of moments, inspiring viewers to stay strong and optimistic through life’s challenges.

Kajal is a street-smart, charismatic, spontaneous, and sharp-witted woman with a penchant for scheming, which makes her a force to reckon with. Despite her dangerous streak, her past has imbued her with the strength to conquer all odds and emerge victorious in every situation. Kajal’s journey is a testament to her unwavering resilience and determination, as she transforms from a naive 16-year-old girl to a poised and mature woman. With her unique blend of wit, cunning, and charm, Kajal carves out her path towards fulfilling her dreams, defying the limitations imposed on her by society. Angira Dhar embodies the character of Kajal with a sensual and unpredictable energy, injecting surprising twists into the later episodes, making them the season’s high points. Her portrayal of Kajal is a masterful display of an empowered woman who refuses to be held back by the constraints of her social environment.

As a character who embodies the spirit of rebellion, Kajal represents the courage and tenacity needed to overcome obstacles and rise above them. Her story serves as an inspiration to all those who face adversity in their lives, urging them to pursue their dreams with grit and determination. The journey of Kajal is a celebration of the human spirit and its indomitable will to succeed, leaving viewers in awe and admiration.

Shanta stands out as the fresh and youngest face of the pack, heavily inclined towards psychedelic substances such as LSD, which allow her to let loose her inhibitions and relish her carnal desires with a fierce sense of recklessness. Despite her willingness to explore physical connections with an unrestrained ardour, the quest for true love eludes her grasp, leaving her yearning and unfulfilled.

However, as the tides of life turn in her favour, she undergoes a transformation, morphing into a lethal incarnation of Raani Baa with an arsenal of deadly traits. A true daredevil at heart, Shanta’s exploits embody her newfound persona, characterised by a potent combination of fearlessness and cunning.

Radhika Madan’s portrayal of Shanta exudes sensuality and hotness, as she seamlessly blends the expressions of pleasure and pain through her piercing eyes, delivering a spellbinding performance that leaves an indelible mark on the audience.

Deepak Dobriyal’s portrayal of Monk is a visual feast for the audience, as he unleashes a performance that brims with viciousness, deadliness, and pure evil. His mastery of the craft is evident in the way he artfully delivers his lines, each one punctuated with a palpable intensity that showcases his acting prowess, yet again.

Dobriyal seamlessly weaves his character’s wiser dialogues into the fabric of his portrayal with remarkable conviction. Every time he appears, his commanding presence dominates the scene leaving an indelible impact on the audience.

The opening lines of his character’s lines are reminiscent of the iconic lines from the movie A Wednesday, “Insaan woh jaanwer hai, jo naam mein aur libaas mein, donon mein pehchaan dhoond leta hai” (Man is an animal that finds identity, both in name and attire). However, Dobriyal’s delivery of these lines elevates them to an entirely different level, setting up his character with an unrelenting force.

Naseeruddin Shah is a luminary, a stalwart whose performances never fail to mesmerise, regardless of the extent of his screen-time. In SBAF, he delivers a pitch-perfect portrayal, embodying the character of a seasoned puppet-master who revels in the benefits of his trade.

His scenes with Kapadia are the epitome of brilliance, showcasing his ability to insult, tease, and gaslight her with ease. Shah’s character ensures that Savitri is reminded of her social status at every turn, as he delivers the unforgettable line, “Ithhay uthhan bethan ki auqat nahin hai thhari,” implying that this club is reserved for cultured people, unlike Savitri. Shah’s command over his craft is on full display in these scenes, as he deftly portrays the character’s manipulative tendencies with a nuanced and compelling performance. His portrayal of the character is nothing short of remarkable.

Homi Adajania’s cutting-edge direction seamlessly blends both urban and rural elements in the series. Although some episodes may appear to drag on, the eight-part web series is truly binge-worthy, thanks to its engaging dialogue, powerful performances, intense action sequences, and unpredictable character transformations. His work in SBAF is a testament to his impressive range as a filmmaker, as he moves from his earlier work on urban flavour films such as Cocktail, Finding Fanny, and Angrezi Medium to a completely new and uncharted terrain of a rustic set up. It is worth noting that all three films featured acclaimed actors Kapadia, Shah, and Dobriyal. Adajania has truly outdone himself with SBAF, leaving behind his masterpiece Being Cyrus, which was ahead of its time.

If you are looking for a fast-paced, women-centric OTT series that highlights great performances, interesting plot, and action that keeps you hooked, then SBAF has lots of adrenaline to offer, exactly what the drug Flamingo does in this series.

Shafiq Ul Hasan Siddiqui is an avid movie buff, and film and drama critic and a digital inbound marketer. He tweets as www.twitter.com/shafiqulhasan81. All information and facts are the responsibility of the writer

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