Lust Stories Web Review - Lust, but no, no, not the least!

Updated: May 12, 2019, 12:53 IST | Mayank Shekhar

It's remarkable though how four shorts, on the face of it, about something as perfunctory as lust at first night, packed neatly into two hours delves seamlessly into uncomfortable but potent subjects.

Kiara Advani and Vicky Kaushal in Johar's short
Kiara Advani and Vicky Kaushal in Johar's short

Lust Stories
Dir: Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Bannerjee, Karan Johar

Surely it takes solid amounts of self-assuredness for four of the possibly best-known contemporary Indian filmmakers, each a champ in their own chosen genre, to get together for a short-film anthology that immediately pits their story-telling skills against each others’. Especially given that, like an inter-house/school/college competition, the theme/topic offered to all of them is also the same.

Manisha Koirala in Banerjee's short
Manisha Koirala in Banerjee's short

If their brains operated like Class 5 kids on a racing track, they’d get too competitive perhaps, and someone or other would simply choke, and blow it. The stars of this film, the directors that is, have in fact attempted a similar anthology before - Bombay Talkies (BT), a set of shorts obliquely related to one’s relationship to cinema. It opened in theatres in 2013, to mark 100 years of Indian cinema.

BT was actually a Netflix sort of content-heavy production, even before there was Netflix in India. This sequel (in spirit), also smartly produced by Ashi Dua, brilliantly scripted, enacted, goes straight to Netflix (now that it can), offering viewers a gamut of emotions, situations, laughter, pain, irony, mockery, sorrow and joy — all of it centred on the general idea of lust, in various forms.

Bhumi Pednekar and Neil Bhoopalam in Akhtar's short
Bhumi Pednekar and Neil Bhoopalam in Akhtar's short

The PG13 (okay fine, maybe 18-plus) scenarios range from:

1) Anurag Kashyap inverting the sexual stereotype, with an older, “settled” woman (Radhika Apte), falling for a much younger man, with her hoping that he doesn’t freak out.

2) Zoya Akhtar looking at the great Indian middle-class phenomenon called the house-maid, who, if you’ve ever been on a desi porn-site, ranks only lower than the proverbial ‘bhabi’ in the collective male fantasy!

3) Dibakar Bannerjee bringing in a middle-aged Salman (Sanjay Kapoor), drunk-dialing a guy through the night, suspecting him of being with the woman he loves. Tense moments follow. I work for a tabloid. And, no, don’t worry, I haven’t given anything away — if at all, only led you slightly astray. It’d be sacrilege to do anything else, especially in the case of Karan Johar’s film, which is more of a situational comedy, or tragedy, if you may.

Akash Thosar and Radhika Apte in Kashyap's short
Akash Thosar and Radhika Apte in Kashyap's short

It’s remarkable though how four shorts, on the face of it, about something as perfunctory as lust at first night, packed neatly into two hours, delves so seamlessly into seemingly uncomfortable but potent subjects as romance, commitment, desire, class, and sex, of course. There have to be stories, if not at least a character or two, that should inevitably invade the recesses of your mind, with a sense of strong recognition — unless you’ve been living under a rock or inside a monastery, all this while. Don’t know about potential for full-length features, every script is a conversation-starter for sure — ideally consumed in groups with equal gender ratio.

We've all binge-watched a series of short films at some point or the other — more so because practically everyone makes one. And they’re usually hard to sit through at one go, since a film — regardless of its length — deserves a post-coital type smoke break, before you can immerse yourself into a whole new world all over again.

While your head’s examining the previous film, the first few seconds into the next in this quartet, gently guides you right till the end, before you similarly get set to start afresh. This is rare. Which is why, it’s really hard to tell which was the best of them all. Should one not attempt still? Okay, so out with the mark-sheets: Z>A>D>K? Makes sense. Oh no, doesn’t, scratch that. Maybe, A=Z>K=D. Absolutely not, scratch that too. Well screw it. You know what? It’s 1+1+1+1=4 super-fab movies! That’s really what it is. No doubt on that front.

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