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With a title like Kumkum Bhagya, one expected to see a run-of-the-mill traditional soap saga Ekta Kapoor specialises in, but this comes as a welcome change from the producer. Based in a middle-class house dominated by women, the serial steeped in reality, sends out a progressive message in an entertaining way.
What is it about: Sarla Arora (Supriya Shukla) has single-handedly raised her two daughters Pragya (Sriti Jha) and Bulbul (Mrunal Thakur) by running a marriage hall. She is worried about procuring a match for Pragya, especially since she looks geeky compared to her pretty sister Bulbul. Pragya, a lecturer has feelings for her colleague, the nerdy Suresh, but is shy about expressing her feelings. He, on the other hand, behaves as if he is in love with her, but has feelings for Bulbul. Bulbul like a typical youngster fancies herself to be in love with rockstar Abhi (Shabbir Ahluwalia) who she has never met. Abhi on the other hand is passionate about making money and love doesn't exist in his vocabulary. He has a like-minded girlfriend.
What works: The story, the characters, the problems and the situations are slice-of-life and completely relatable. We loved the scene where Pragya cancels her wedding because of unreasonable demands from the groom's mother. Having spotted the pretty Bulbul at the wedding, the would-be saas wants her to be the bahu instead of Pragya! She relents to accepting Pragya as the bahu only if the hall is transferred in the dulha's name. When Pragya learns about it, she agrees, but on the condition that she will marry his handsome cousin! Pragya then tells the stunned dulha that she is cancelling the wedding. Atta girl!
Another scene reflective of the craze for celebrities was bang-on. Abhi goes for a Chautha ceremony and people gathered for the prayer meet are more interested in clicking pics with him than paying condolences to the family of the deceased! Besides, Abhi is not remotely connected to the family - he has been paid to make an appearance! The sequence was unintentionally funny and spoke volumes of the crazy fad.
Performances: The casting is perfect. Whether it's Sriti Jha as the simple, straight-forward girl who stands for what is right or Mreenal Thakur as the bubbly, vivacious Bulbul, Supriya Shukla as the sensitive, gutsy, and loving mother, or Faisal Rashid as the nerdy and righteous Suresh, everybody does justice to their roles. It's a delight to watch Madhu Raja as the fun-loving, progressive Beeji. Shabbir as the rockstar looks cool but seems to be casual about his performance. The connect is missing.
What does not work: The confusion about who Suresh is in love with is annoying. The misunderstanding between Suresh-Bulbul-Pragya is becoming predictable. Thankfully, they cleared it before it dragged. Also, Abhi's track in this otherwise realistic soap is odd, but he is the hero, so there should be a justification soon.
Verdict: The show definitely stands out in the clutter of family dramas and barring the predictable confusion, it's interesting. One only hope it sticks to its realistic theme and progessive outlook.