From being nominated for the Emmys to making careers out of actors, Lust Stories now returns with a second instalment with four new directors and four new stories in the form of Lust Stories 2. Yet another alluring set of actors star in these short films directed by R. Balki, Konkona Sen Sharma, Sujoy Ghosh and Amit Ravindranath Sharma (in the order they appear). Having had the chance to see the films before hand, here is what I thought about it-
Director: R. Balki
Balki usually has a more subtle way of exploring tabooed subjects like he did in Cheeni Kum or even Ki & Ka (not so subtle there though). Here, subtlety takes a backseat and his way of conveying the story happens in the form of Neena Gupta's character of Dadi. A couple soon-to-be married, played by Mrunal Thakur and Angad Bedi is seemingly compatible otherwise but Dadi is adamant on asking them to have sex first to judge if they will have a healthy sex life post their wedding as well.
It does sound weird by the one-liner but to Balki's credit, he manages to infuse an elaborate chunk of humor in the form of one-liners to not just warm up the viewer with this idea but also make it palatable. The runtime of this film is also apt enough but the concept and it's execution gets lost in translation. Owing to Neena Gupta's acting prowess, Dadi is not only the show stealer but the only character who gets a full arc to portray. However, both Thakur and Bedi, even more so Bedi, barely get anything to play with. The idea is understandable but the end of the film feels rushed and haphazard. Balki's signature style is at full display and the humor and warm situations are indeed the saving grace in what otherwise seems a confused tale.
Rating - **1/2 (2.5/5)
Director: Konkona Sen Sharma
I mean, just how obvious can it get when a woman director tells a stories about women. The lens, treatment and storytelling becomes more nuanced and yet poignant. The masterful directorial skills that Konkona Sen Sharma possesses (as seen in A Death in the Gunj) is once again at work here.
Tillotamea Shome plays a woman who is successful with her professional endeavour but is alone, sexually unsatisfied and depressed even. Her maid, Seema (Amruta Subhash) is diligent with her work but shockingly, has sex with her husband in Shome's house, on her bed on an everyday basis when her boss lady is away at work. The twist in the tale lies when Shome does come to know about it, she doesn't do the obvious of firing her but instead begins a routine of her coming in secretly and watching them have sex as she masturbates.
Sen Sharma's eye to convey a story is so fantastic and brilliant that you cannot help but notice everything she wants to show. Even in a short film, with some incredible cinematography, and minimal dialogue for about half of the runtime, Sen Sharma explores an array of plot developments with finesse. Hell, she even goes on highlight the economic divide of our country and how it impacts both the opposite ends of the strata through a story about sex. The gaze of lust cannot be done in a purer way than it is done here with this story. Even small decisions like having Subhash's character and her husband conversing in their mother tongue of Marathi to long closeups of the leading characters that show much more than an unwanted dialogue would are enough for you to be invested in this saga. It helps that Shome and Subhash are supreme with their performances and this becomes one of the rare shorts in this anthology that gets a full and satisfactory arc.
Rating - **** (4/5)
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
I didn't go in expecting Sujoy Ghosh to go full-blown vanilla or different from his usual style with his short film but I also didn't anticipate him incorporating his way of directing to this extent that it looks forced.
Ghosh's short stars Vijay Varma and Tamannaah Bhatia where Vijay, currently a married man with two children on his way to a place far away in his car but his lust of looking at his apparent girlfriend unbuttoning her bra in video call leads to an accident. This leads him to reunite with his estranged first wife, Shanti (Bhatia) and this rekindling leads to some unanticipated revelations. While it seems intriguing in the beginning, this film loses grip too soon owing to the weird lights and backdrop that the outer locations possess and furthermore, the unnatural dialogue delivery between Varma and Bhatia is almost laughable.
There is an unveiling of twists one after the other which is fine otherwise in a Sujoy Ghosh film but owing the limited runtime and minimal connection with the characters, becomes a big miss here. It takes a lot to make Vijay Varma give an underwhelming performance and to my shock, it happened. Varma does do his best with whatever he is provided but the weird exchange of dialogues and weirder and predictable plot twists doesn't help his case. Bhatia gets barely anything to do and the only saving grace in this short film is their on-screen chemistry. The big twist that leaves you in the last few seconds is also rather blah and hence, this is probably the weakest one in this set of four films.
Rating - ** (2/5)
Director: Amit Ravindernath Sharma
Just minutes into this film, you almost find it hard to believe that this one is being directed by the same person who we know for directing a film like Badhaai Ho. The dark nature, brutality of Kumud Mishra's character and other characteristics are almost too hard to digest in a way of sorts. Kajol's character is the wife of a king, who is one of the worst humans there can be. From sexually exploiting her to being lustful for any woman he sets his eyes on, his character has no redeeming qualities. The catch is that Kajol's character was actually a former prostitute who Mishra's character 'saved' from and gave her a lavish lifestyle. That obviously isn't the case! While the story itself was engaging anyway, there are some unanticipated twists in store ahead.
The idea of lust in its most literal sense is probably more pronounced in this story than others owing to just how pathetic one character is. From domestic violence to post-marital rape and male gaze among other things, Amit Ravindernath Sharma goes to places that are discomforting and shocking. There is no subtlety here as well (like that in Balki's short) but that is covered up by what this story intends to convey overall. It does get a bit lengthy in willing to convey what seems like an obvious message but the big twist in the final few moments of the film is something you just don't see coming and leaves your jaws dropped.
That moment makes up for the otherwise singular treatment of the messaging intended. Kajol acts out her role with great finesse and does so much with her eyes which is so refreshing to see. Mishra plays the pathetic human that he is asked to and makes you hate him with full heart. In the end, Amit Ravindernath Sharma just proves that he has more facets as a director than just the world of Badhaai Ho which might be expected of him.
Rating - ***1/2 (3.5/5)
Let us know your favorite one in the comments below.ALSO READ: Review: Kareena led 'Jaane Jaan' is a delicious plate of thrills about some kills up the hills