After tugging at our hearts with four endearing stories related to the Hindi film industry and the influence thereof with Bombay Talkies, the awesome foursome Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap have come together yet again to talk about a sensitive subject. Or is it?
Lust, sex and passion still seem like taboo subjects while it being a seemingly normal part of the human psyche. The four directors have directed four tales about lust and addressed the repressed sexual mentality in the Indian society, through Lust Stories which released on Netflix today. I absolutely loved Bombay Talkies so I was supremely excited about what they were going to come up with. Surprisingly enough, all the films have a female protagonist and a female perspective on the subject. This, without being boastful or in your face about it. I had an interaction recently with the four directors and they told me that this wasn't planned. They watched it for the first time after all the movies were made and that's when they realised that all of them had a strong, independent female protagonist (or antagonist, as you perceive). This raised my intrigue to another level.
It starts off with Anurag's take on lust, expectations and a very interesting look-see into the part of the human psychology that we use to somehow convince ourselves for or against certain things that we do. Radhika Apte plays a teacher in a college who indulges in a one night stand of sorts with Akash Thosar (of Sairat fame). She is then shown to be a little wary of this affair as she believes that younger men often turning into stalkers of some sort. This is a tragic comedy, with Radhika having monologue-esque conversations with the camera that remind you of the ramblings of Woody Allen in a lot of his work. This short urges you to really push the boundaries between right and wrong all the while giving you an honest view of the situation on hand.
This is followed by a seemingly relatable tale of Sudha, a house help who has a physical relationship with a bachelor whose house she is currently employed at. The calm, collected and near-silent Sudha is played by Bhumi Pednekar. This short, directed by Zoya Akhtar urges you to look beyond the class system that we have in this society all the while bringing your attention to how we treat 'the help'. Bhumi exceeds expectations as she essays this role with the subtlety and depth that it requires. You can see the anguish that she goes through, not through words but in the way she moves. Even the blink of an eye shows you what she is feeling at that particular moment.
Then we are led into the world of Reena, played by Manisha Koirala in the third story directed by Dibakar Banerjee. He tells us a tale of a married woman who is having an affair with her husband's best friend. Here's the catch, she doesn't regret anything. Manisha's portrayal of this modern Indian woman stuck in between a claustrophobic marriage with a 'money man' who has stopped being a husband emotionally and his best friend who is sensitive and caring and makes her feel attractive. This was definitely the best short out of the lot where we finally saw a strong female protagonist going after what she wants. The movie is entirely shot at the rendezvous point which is a beach house, and I love how this space was used as a part of the storytelling. How this place of tranquillity turns into a place of revelation makes the crux of this story. You could almost see this woman as a manipulative person toying with the emotions of two men but Banerjee draws your attention to her needs and expectations flawlessly, urging you to think beyond the usual.
Finally, this ends with Karan Johar's tale about a small town wife who is exploring her sexuality. Somehow compared to the last stories, this felt a little out of place and almost simplistically comical. This was the only tale based in a small town and I felt like it lacked the complexity and depth that the other films portrayed beautifully. The turning point of the film was when Kiara Advani's character finds out about the 'pleasures' of a vibrator in a crass and flat scene that might be loosely based on a joke cracked by Tanmay Bhatt at the AIB Roast. Did I laugh? Yes. But did this story manage to make an impact? I am not sure about it.
Honestly, every story in this spectrum tells us a very honest tale of where we are as a society, yes EVEN KJo's tale. While the story from the other three give us a view of the metropolitan society that we are a part of, KJo's story took us to a small town where using a vibrator would be seen as a scandalous thing! If nothing I think these movies will at least bring us to start a conversation about the idea and boundaries of sexuality, fidelity and the human psychology's understanding of right and wrong when it comes to sexual desire.