Well, if you are looking for steamy scenes, Netflix’s ‘Lust Stories’ definitely isn’t for you. It’s more nuanced and has more depth than what meets the eye. The progression of Hindi cinema is clearly visible with it’s four prominent directors- Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akthar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar giving their take on a topic rarely discussed ‘Lust’.
The foursome last came together in 2013 for ‘Bombay Talkies’ which celebrated the 100 years of Indian cinema. Bombay Talkies predominantly revolved around the theme of love whether it was a love for a filmstar, love for one’s craft or same sex love. This time the anthology revolves around lust and to my surprise in each of the four shorts women play the lead characters. Casting women in lead roles, the directors prove a point here that lust, desire isn’t only for men it’s for women too.
It’s not that we haven’t seen women play the emotion of lust on screen. ‘Lipstick under my burkha’ and recent released ‘Veere di wedding’ also showed us women with desires. But it is the ‘Liberal’ and ‘Bold’ characters in this anthology that sets it’s apart and will be hailed in the coming future.
Kashyap’s short opens with a free spirited Kalindi (Radhika Apte) soaking the Mumbai air. We come to know that Kalindi, a professor, is in a long distance marriage but in an open relationship. It is shown as if she is interviewed for the entire part, speaking about her philosophies about romance, love and sex. Apte is brilliant playing the maniac Kalindi who stalks her already smitten student (Akash Thosar). It seems she wants him deeply but also is in a committed marriage and Radhika plays the dubious minded Kalindi to perfection.
Zoya’s skillful storytelling is clearly visible in her short. Set in a 1BHK apparent, Ajit, an IT professional is shown having sex with his maid (Bhumi Pednekar). It’s a regular thing until one day his parents drop by with a marriage proposal. Bhumi has rarely any dialogues but her eyes speak aplenty. She is shown doing the regular chores of cleaning the floor, preparing tea. Her hesitation is clearly visible in front of Ajit’s parents. Zoya’s short focusses on the complicated life of the lower class without hammering on it.
In a scene in Dibakar’s short, Reena (Manisha Koirala) having an extramarrital affair with her husband’s (Sanjay Kapoor) friend tells her partner that she wants divorce from her husband. Her reluctant partner tells her to think about her children. On which she says, “Kya divorcees ke bacche nahi hote.” Reena is strong, resilient and manipulative. Her husband Salman mocks her career and says it’s because of his allowance that she is successful. She ably responds him. Dibakar’s short is mature as its central characters don’t make a fuss about it.
Johar’s short has all the trappings of a KJO film. Women dressed in ‘KJO’ style, a wedding, a saas and yes a dildo. Set in a small town, Megha (Kiara Advani) a teacher who gets married to (Paras) Vicky Kaushal. Paras being the Indian male isn’t concerned about the desires of her. Megha isn’t satisfied with her husband. She finds an unlikely companion in a dildo and the hilarious scene would be remembered for a life time with Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham playing in the background.
Its only Johar’s short that gives broad strokes about ‘Lust’ others are much more subtle. ‘Lust Stories’ perfectly sums up women’s position for equality in society today, ‘ Near..yet so far’
This 2 hour anthology is a step in a good direction as other directors who refrain from adultrated content can do so as Netflix, is yet uncensored.
Directors – Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar
Cast – Radhika Apte, Bhumi Pednekar, Manisha Koirala, Kiara Advani, Neha Dhupia, Vicky Kaushal, Jaideep Ahlawat, Sanjay Kapoor