Misal pav is a spicy Maharashtrian dish: a staple breakfast or evening snack. A mixture of sprouts curry, onion, and farsan, eaten with bread, misal pav is budget-friendly, tasty, and nutritious. SonyLIV's Marathi web series, Shantit Kranti, is like misal pav. It is a mixture of Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara with obvious budget constraints and a typical Maharashtrian swag.
The story's three lead characters, Shreyas, Prasanna, and Dinar, are in their late twenties. They have grown up watching Dil Chahta Hai, are smitten by it, and have absorbed the movie's friendship ideology to the last drop. Thus, a road trip to Goa appears to be the logical solution to their life's problems. However, the journey takes a U-turn when instead of going to Goa, they end up in an ashram in Lonavala.
Far away from the promises of beers, bikinis, and beaches, the three friends find themselves at Shantivan, a meditation retreat. It's a secluded nature-themed haven where their phones are confiscated, intoxication is banned, and they are encouraged to share their troubles, which is an alien concept to the bottled-up boys. This displacement results in hilarious situations, resurfacing of issues, and eventually, conflict resolution.
The series has the basic beats of a road-trip movie. There's the banter, the fights, and the catharsis. You know what is going to happen. But the charm is in watching it unfold.
You instantly connect with the characters and their conflicts. Dinar (played by Alok Rajwade) has deep-rooted daddy issues, Shreyas (played by Abhay Mahajan and credited for the concept) is trying to process a broken engagement, and Prasanna (played by Lalit Prabhakar) is troubled by the financial challenges of starting a family amidst a muddled career and his dreams of being an Olympic swimmer. Dinar's problems are in his past, Shreyas' are in his present, and Prasanna's are in his future. They find the answers during their stay at Shantivan, where they understand impermanence.
This may sound too heavy for a comedy series, but that's the beauty of Shantit Kranti. Not once does the series leave its comedic nature behind to turn preachy. It balances comedy and tragedy well. There's drama but it's only a well-timed comma and not a forced full stop in the comedic narrative.
Alok, Abhay, and Lalit have delivered convincing performances as childhood friends. It is their chemistry that makes their performances less of an act; they are simply being their characters, a testimony to their theatre backgrounds. While the focus is on the male leads, the female characters are also well-defined. They are not mere props. Neha (played by Shikha Talsania) and Kaku (played by Suhita Thatte) are strong women who make their presence felt. However, the character of Prasanna's wife, Nishi, (played by Mrinmayee Godbole) had scope for further exploration.
Shantit Kranti is a TVF (The Viral Fever) creation in association with Bharatiya Digital Party and what comes across breezy on screen has a lot to do with what went on behind the scenes. Shantit Kranti is a sincere directorial venture by BhaDiPa creators Sarang Sathaye and Paula McGlynn, who have minor roles in the series as well. This is their foray into the big OTT arena (Bharatiya Digital Party's YouTube channel recently crossed the one-million-subscriber mark), and they have made their mark.
With a reliable cast and crew, the Bharatiya Digital Party team has brought an extension of their YouTube persona to SonyLIV. While this is good news for their dedicated fanbase, built over time thanks to hits like Casting Couch and Aai & Me, it can be a hurdle to entertain a mass audience that is unaware of their work.
BhaDiPa, and as a result Shantit Kranti, has a peculiar sense of humour, which might not connect a chord instantly with an uninitiated viewer. While Shantit Kranti's story, conflicts, and messaging are universal, the territorial execution can be a limiting factor in catering to a wider, especially, non-Marathi audience.
Segments featuring Dinar's drunken sermons and the mysterious appearances of Shankar (played by Vijay Nikam) could have been tighter. Overall, to-the-point screenplay and editing would have resulted in a much crisper five-episode series instead of a slightly laborious six-episode one. Shantit Kranti started steadily, digressed midway, but like any good trip, ended on a satisfactory note.
At its core, Shantit Kranti is about being in the moment and at peace — with yourself and with others. You can watch Shantit Kranti on SonyLIV.