‘Content is the king, whether a man or a woman is headlining it’ says actress Lara Dutta

By Neeru Saluja

A Royal King, four daughters and a contest. What do these elements tell you? Drama, humour and an ensemble cast to match the royal characters!

ZEE5 Global originalKaun Banegi Shikharwati is a dramedy based on the life of the Royal King and his dysfunctional family, who devises an outlandish plan to unite his estranged daughters. The series comprises of talented actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Lara Dutta, Soha Ali Khan, Kritika Kamra and Anya Singh.

While Lara Dutta is ruling the OTT platform with liberated roles in web series Hundred, Hiccups and Hookups and most recently the film Bell Bottom, Anya Singh, who made a mark with Never Kiss Your Best Friend and Qaidi Band, delivers something different each time.

We got to talk to actresses Lara Dutta and Anya Singh about this web series. 

Critics have been calling ‘Kaun Banegi Shikharwati’ as quirky, fun and heart-warming. How would you describe this web series?

Lara Dutta: They hit the nail on the head! I think it is quirky, fun and heart-warming. From the feedback we have received since it has released, it’s been the perfect anecdote for what’s been going around here with the current COVID situation. People are staying indoors and this web series has been a great family watch. We are very happy with the feedback.

Anya Singh: I completely agree with Lara. There is currently a lockdown and many people have messaged me from various parts of the country how much they liked the series. The audience has gobbled this show up and enjoyed it and I’m really happy about it.

The first few episodes reveal the dynamics of a dysfunctional family. How did you keep up being part of a family while competing against each other?

Lara Dutta: The most difficult part was to pretend to hate each other otherwise behind the sets we were having a blast. Every time it was roll, camera, action, we had to remember to get back into character. It was a lot of fun onscreen and having this ensemble cast to work with. The writer Ananya Banerjee and director Gaurav Chawla of this show were very clear in their execution which made it easy for us to step into our characters and complete a character arch from episode one to episode 10.

At the end of the day, the series is about family and despite your differences it’s home and family that prevails. When you know the thread is right, it makes it easier to execute.

We could see all the fun you were having on set, tell us a bit about the fun you were having off set?

Anya Singh: We would spend all the day on sets but even off set we would think about the next antic that our character will be playing. When we would go back to our hotel and because we didn’t have much human contact as we shot during the lockdown, we really took to each other. We wanted to spend time with each other and had a fabulous time together.

You both are established actors in your own right and we are finally getting to see multiple female actors working together in a web series. How do you perceive this wave of change?

Lara: I have never looked at a project and seen it as this will make a statement because it’s women led. That era has gone and now you are looking at content being what matters the most. Personally, for me, I would see if I have done this kind of role in the past and is there something I can do differently. It’s a coincidence that four female characters from one season are also four incredible and lovely actors to work with. It’s progressive that we are not hero driven or the whole film is not riding on one person’s shoulder. In the cinemas many hero driven films are not working. Content is the king whether a man or a woman is headlining it.

How was it working with legendary actor Naseeruddin Shah?

Lara: This was something for what I long wished for in my career. I have known Naseer ji for many years but have never had the opportunity to share screen space with him. For me this was an actor’s dream come true. He is brilliant, it’s like watching an encyclopedia work. It’s an incredible opportunity to listen, imbibe and learn from him.

Anya: It was an absolute privilege to be working with Naseer Sir. It was also extremely intimidating, and I was nervous. He treated all of us as equals and as an actor that is a nice feeling. He would always tell us these interesting stories about his work, theatre and there would always be something to learn from.

If there was another character in the series you loved and could relate to, which one would it be?

Anya: It would be the same character for both of us – Princess Kaa, played by Kritika Kamra.

Lara: Kaa was a very relevant character about people who are hooked on their social media accounts. It was a fun character and Kritika Kamra did an amazing job. She made it what it is. But I don’t relate to her character. Princess Kaa is very different to what Lara is!

Would you like to give any message to your audience?

Anya: For me, this was a very refreshing concept. If you want to enjoy something and have fun, hate your sisters while watching it or watch it with them, then go for it. We had great fun making this web series and I hope it comes across the screen.

Lara: Thank you to everyone who have watched this series so far, thanks for your feedback and time. The day it came out the reviews were mixed but I understand as critics have so much to review. The most important feedback for us is the feedback from the audience which has been amazing. For those who haven’t watched it, this series is a stress buster. It’s an easy watch. You don’t have to follow it closely. It’s an easy, funny and fabulous watch that you can watch with your entire family.

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