Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Abhishek Chaubey and Saket Chaudhary bring their distinct voices in creating three tales about finding connections and companionship.
Through three different stories set in the buzzing cityscape of Mumbai, filmmakers Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Abhishek Chaubey and Saket Chaudhary relay the very human emotions of love, loss, and longing.
Capturing Mumbai has been a favourite in Indian cinema and shows; the city is sometimes the protagonist, and sometimes it's the villain. Netflix’s anthology Ankahi Kahaniya is another attempt at paying a tribute to the bustling Maximum City. The three stories, told by filmmakers Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Abhishek Chaubey and Saket Chaudhary, has one common link: loners finding connections in unexpected situations. What makes Ankahi Kahaniya different from the recent influx of anthologies is that the makers don’t try to create larger than life stories.
The first story by Tiwari stars Abhishek Bannerjee as Pradeep, an employee in a garment shop, instantly falls in love with a mannequin displayed at the shop he works at. The attachment he forms with an inanimate object is eccentric, but never cringeworthy. For this, credit goes to Tiwari and Bannerjee, who portrayed the story in such a way that the viewer will only have empathy for Pradeep.
Bannerjee carries the film on his shoulders, and the character Pradeep is tailor-made for him. The actor had earlier proved he doesn't need many words to emote. As Compounder in Mirzapur or Hathoda Tyagi in Paatal Lok, it was the fierce silence and limited dialogues that expressed more than enough. Bannerjee has often played the hero’s best friend in many films, but with this short in Ankahi Kahaniya, he proves that he can stand his own as a leading actor.
The short has a thrilling undertone after the premise is set, ably created by writers Piyush Gupta, Shreyas Jain, and Nitesh Tiwari. They get the unpredictability that drives Pradeep to find a peculiar way to treat his loneliness, and the attachment people can form with material objects. Pradeep’s relationship with the mannequin is likened to his grandfather’s relationship with a radio that he carried everywhere and always treated like a queen.
Abhishek Chaubey directs the second short, adapted from Jayant Kaikini’s Kannada short story “Madhyantara.” It’s set in 1984 Bombay when single screens were the go-to destinations for youngsters. It was also around the time when Kamal Haasan and Rati Agnihotri starrer Ek Duuje Ke Liye hit the screens which led to many young couples elope or even be inspired to die by suicide like the film’s leading pair.
Manjiri (Rinku Rajguru) and Nandu (Delzad Hiwale) are a young couple, who want to get rid of the shackles that bind them. They have a meet-cute moment and dream about how their ideal would be. Having watched movies based on couples eloping and rebelling against their families, Manjiri and Nandu decide to take a similar step. But are they taking a step in the right direction? That is the question that the rest of the short attempts to answer.
Chaubey captures the rawness of old Bombay in his short — major 80s vibe, especially because of the sepia colour palette. The director shows what Mumbai really stands for, people and their love for movies. But he leaves the short with an open ending to let viewers long for more.
Nobody could have portrayed Manjiri better than Rajguru (of Sairat-fame). It’s perfection when she balances her crush on Nandu against her restrictive life. There's one sequence where she gives it back to her brother by saying 'If only I was allowed to complete my education'. He responds with a slap, a glaring hint that she needs to, and deserves to break free from the life she’s currently living.
Hiwale is another actor in the anthology whose character Nandu shows that silence can be golden. With just a smile and minimal words, he manages to woo the girl. You suspect his silence, maybe his intentions are different than what Manjiri or even the viewer expect, but they are far more shocking in the end. The short’s casting is commendable, and so is Chaubey’s effort in creating a short film based on a story set in the ‘80s.
The last and final story by Saket Chaudhary narrates the side-effects of being married. It’s set in the present-day urban Mumbai and follows two couples played by Kunal Kapoor and Palomi, and Zoya Hussain and Nikhil Dwivedi. 'Infidelity is the reality of modern marriages', says Zoya's character. That one sentence is enough to understand what’s coming in the story. Tanu suspects her husband Arjun (Nikhil) is having an affair with Natasha (Palomi), who is married to Manav (Kunal). But the doubt turns into reality as both Tanu and Manav discover that their spouses are cheating on them.
To figure out how this affair may have started, Tabu and Manav recreate the scene of their spouses meeting each other for the first time. In the process, they realise that it's no surprise for them to know that their partners will indulge in infidelity. It’s an eye-opener for the both of them, as they realise their respective marriages have almost reached an expiration date.
Kapoor and Hussain have amazing chemistry as they try to unfold the truth about their partners' cheating on them. That's the beauty of this short, which also shows how one may seek comfort in a stranger.
Chaudhary’s short does not have Mumbai play a focal part, but it tells that loneliness can exist even when you have a lifelong companion. Zeenat Lakhani and Chaudhary have previously tackled the subject of marriage in Shaadi Ke Side Effects and Hindi Medium, but with Ankahi Kahaniya, they take a step further and show how an extramarital affair can leave a lasting impact on the psyche of the one being cheated on. It’s a short that could have been a full-blown feature, where so many unspoken things could have been elaborated upon.
Modern Love season 2’s episode “In the Waiting Room of Estranged Spouses” tells a similar tale. While watching Ankahi Kahaniya, it seems like the short will take the same path, but the writers had something more interesting in store.
Kapoor, Palomi, Hussain, and Dwivedi deliver a decent and feel-good performance — depicting the classiness of urbane couples, but also individuals who realise that dreams and loneliness can't be quantified.
Ankahi Kahaniya is just like its title, and these unique stories deserve a huge round of applause.
Ankahi Kahaniya gives a distinct spin to love stories. This fresh take on loneliness, longing and infidelity makes this anthology worth the watch.