It's lustful and filled with passion, but boredom also strikes.
In their unique ways, four exceptional filmmakers—Amit Ravindernath Sharma, Konkona Sen Sharma, R. Balki, and Sujoy Ghosh—invite viewers into a world where desire is front and centre. This collection of films features an all-star cast that includes Amruta Shubhash, Angad Bedi, Kajol, Kumud Mishra, Mrunal Thakur, Neena Gupta, Tamannaah Bhatia, Tillotama Shome, and Vijay Varma, and it's set to push the envelope of traditional narrative conventions.
Four stories with one common link: Lust In one of them, it's induced; in another, it's aspirational. In one of the shorts, it's vengeance, and in another, it's rekindling. Four directors who are known for their uniqueness with storytelling have brought about these stories, which, in conclusion, are 50-50. I liked two of them, and the other two, not so much.
So this review will be of each of the films in the order in which they appear in the anthology.
The short film is extremely short, with no twists and turns. It's just the inception of lust and why it's important. The straightforward story is about a couple played by Angad Bedi and Mrunal Thakur who meet for an arranged match. The excellent Neena Gupta, who plays her grandmother, inquires about premarital sex during the meet the parents session. The character states the facts, which are important but considered taboo. In one of the dialogues, Neena's character slams her son when he says "shee." She responds that if there wasn't any sex, he wouldn't have been in this world.
But that's Balki; since Cheeni Kum, we have seen that it's he who has given utmost importance to the senior actors by making them the lead and shoulder of his story. In the 2007 film, we see how organically Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu's characters, who have an age difference of 30 years, fall in love.
Similarly, in Made For Each Other, there's love between Angad and Mrunal's characters, but "test driving" is the need of the hour, as that can be a reason for a marriage to break.
The film is short and only risqué, as Neena has a graphic description even for her sex escapades. Mrunal, who giggles throughout the film, doesn't even make sense after one point in time, as it doesn't get funny anymore. It felt like her real self was in the moment, and she couldn't perform because the scenes cracked her up. On the other hand, Angad definitely had very little to offer, maybe literally speaking, like his character during the "test drives"!
The win for the short film is the dialogue, which has been Balki's forte over the years. He puts humour into uncomfortable situations and cracks the tough nuts among the audience. But that's about it. Maybe it's a sweet start to the lust stories that get raunchier ahead.
It's a normal day, and you reach home whenever you want to. What do you see when you open the door? Your housemaid is having sex on your bed! NIGHTMARE, indeed! That's what happens in the short directed by Konkona Sen Sharma.
The film features the incredible actors Tillotama Shome (as the house owner) and Amruta Subhash (as the maid). The film gives a hint that it might be another house owner vs. maid, but it's nothing like that. This story is about women empowering one another sexually. Tillotama watches Amruta have sex with her husband on a daily basis from the reflection of a mirror and flies solo. But the latter gets to know it, does nothing about it, and continues with her adventures on her boss' bed. It's like both understand the need and don't want to be villains in each other's stories. Tillotama is a loner whose life is just work, home, and work, whereas Amruta lives in slums in a matchbox-sized house, so of course there's no privacy for the married couple.
Seven years ago, Alankrita Shrivastava made Lipstick Under My Burkha, which was a glass-shattering film. But it also made cinephiles realise how, when it comes to a filmmaker, the female gaze is unique and very important. Konkona, who wrote the screenplay with Pooja Tolani, brought that very female gaze, which made this story the best of the lot. Both the actors, Tillotama and Amruta, crank it up a notch, and that comfort is visible when it comes to embracing their sexuality. The importance and mere presence of Amruta's husband, played by Shrikant Yadav, is of a catalyst, but there's no lack of sensitivity towards his character. Konkona's gaze was equal to all and incredibly executed.
You won't be able to take your eyes off because curiosity is at its peak throughout the film.
Sujoy Ghosh didn't make any efforts to give the film a title, just like he did with the storytelling. The film just gets weaker from the beginning. After Dahaad, we do wish Vijay Varma not as a satyromania! The actor begins the movie by engaging in a sexual video chat with a woman while driving his car, but his family calls to interrupt him. In no time, we see him hitting his car into a tree, and there comes a make-believe world. The whole location looks faker than the Komban village Rohit Shetty showed in Chennai Express.
Sujoy doesn't even make an attempt to generate curiosity by showing what his story is about. We see Vijay, who plays Vijay Chauhan; yes, he even says that's his "pura naam," referring to the popular Agneepath dialogue. He meets his ex-wife in this small town after a decade; he believes that she is dead, so he gets remarried. The film is built on Vijay's lust for the bust as the camera keeps on panning towards Tamannaah's assets and her curvaceous figure. At one point in time, he even checks her bra size and gets the shock of his life. Yes, it's as creepy as it sounds, and they didn't even try to hide it.
The short film is in the thriller genre, which is Sujoy's comfort zone. But it's a miss for everyone because the story gets as predictable as it's never supposed to be, which results in major disappointment. Even the performances don't hold the film, as we saw Vijay and Tamanaah in similar roles this year in Dahaad and Jee Karda, respectively.
Imagining Kajol in Lust Stories is already a win-win situation for Amit Sharma. The film is set in a royal setting, with Kumud Mishra being a pervert King who must have raped as many women as he must have seen in his village. It's so much that he also married a sex worker played by Kajol, who becomes Rani Sa. They have a son, and she doesn't want him to be anything like his father, so she urges him to go to England for further studies. Being a survivor herself of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, her desire to live life like a queen never sees broad daylight. It's triggering to watch those scenes where Kajol's character is a survivor of marital rape, and it comes as no surprise that she wants to teach him a lesson.
The film gives a monotonous vibe as to where this is even heading. But Amit Sharma keeps the shocking twist in its climax, and it definitely leaves a lasting impact. I thought maybe it was the last film, so it impacted me the most. But no, the coming together of everything towards the end is disturbing and even gut-wrenching.
The director showed how to fit all possible elements into a shorter span of time, and this is the thrill that was needed to conclude Lust Stories too. Talking about the performances, Kajol, hands down, is fabulous with her expressions. The actor is given a few dialogue lines, and the character is also not over-the-top. Kumud Mishra reminded me of Manoj Bajpayee from Gangs of Wasseypur Part I, but his menacing act is not so surprising knowing the calibre of the actor.
Even the supporting actors, namely Zeeshan Nadaf and Anushka Kaushik, do their jobs convincingly.
Lust Stories 2 cannot be called the best anthology overall. But definitely, Konkona and Amit stand out of the lot!
It's lustful and filled with passion, but only the two short films give the much-needed climax that the lust stories deserve!