Netflix’s recently released sequel of their famous anthology from 2018, Lust Stories, is back with more stories, new actors, and new directors helming the project and helping the audience understand the concept of lust from new points of view. The 2018 one had diverse stories about the female body and needs, and it created quite a buzz, especially the short film featuring Kiara Advani. Lust Stories is an important part of the Netflix India releases because, as the country is obsessed with Hindi cinema and the industry is filled with love stories, it is fascinating to understand what happens before and after ‘they lived happily ever after’ and what would be their way to sustain the love.
This time around, there are also tales of exploring sensual pleasure from a female perspective, but not all of them landed the way they should have. Out of the four stories presented to the viewers, only two worked, and the rest fell flat in many aspects. Through this article, we will be discussing which directors’ vision around the concept of lust worked out overall as a package and which films did not work at all. Here is the list of short films from this latest anthology, starting from the worst to the best.
Mirror (Konkona Sen Sharma)
Amongst all the clutter that we saw in the last three films, Mirror by Konkona Sen Sharma comes across as a breath of fresh air for its approach to describing lust. The movie talks about the subjects of voyeurism, kink, gaze, space, consent, class division, being desired, and how women look at other women around them. Ishita accidentally ends up witnessing her maid Seema Didi physically intimate in her room on her bed, and she slowly realizes that she likes looking at them and seeks pleasure by watching in the mirror. Things go awkward, and an argument breaks out. In just 40 minutes, the director managed to speak about how women from all strata of life want to be desired, and no one should be looking down on something as basic as this one.
The direction and the screenplay have so many layers to them that it would be hard to comprehend whose side we should be on. Both are correct and wrong in their ways, but it is their ego that has been hurt by getting caught in the act. Mirror is the epitome of women telling women’s stories because we get to see so many barriers being broken just by conversations and outbursts. Mirror is also a euphemism for the frame through which we look at ourselves and others seeking pleasure, and being judgmental of the choices women make. A woman who has been hired to keep your house clean and cook food for you, and they are termed unclean just for having physical relations with her husband. With this kind of discord, hopefully, we will get to see more in the future about women from every sector of society being given a platform to talk about the kind of pleasure they seek. Something we have seen in Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha and Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare The direction and the cinematography is seamless, which makes us gaze into the lives of these women. Not to forget some great performances by the three leads, Amruta Subhash, Tillotama Shome, and Shrukant Yadav, who were able to portray their characters effortlessly. This short film would have worked even outside of this anthology. A must-watch indeed.
Made For Each Other (R. Balki)
We have come across families who claim to be modern but to date squirm at the mention of the word ‘S*x.’ This showcases how the topic is still considered taboo, and many do not understand that the idea of a consensual relationship before marriage should not be looked down upon. Veda and Arjun are to be married, and her grandmother puts forward the notion that despite everything that works for them, physical intimacy should top the list, and there should not be any compromise on that. This surely leaves the parents of the bride and groom embarrassed, but for the couple, it is permission to explore each other. But again, why does the couple need anyone’s permission to do what they want to do as adults? The screenplay of the film goes into repetitive mode because of the idea that the grandmother had a deeply intimate relationship with her husband but forgot to add profundity to the relationship she spoke about.
The narrative forgot to speak of emotions of fluttering, giddiness, and blushing to understand the love the grandmother is talking about. Here, the concept of lust comes across as an age-old concept that has gotten lost, as per the central character. Also, it seems the grandmother bit was overdone because someone who spoke so much about it encouraged her granddaughter to spend as much time with her fiancé, and there were no intimate scenes between the two. I agree with the fact that one does not need the display of pleasure to understand its importance, but the screenplay must be strong enough to be able to execute the above-mentioned scenario, something this film lacked. Mrunal Thakur spent the whole film laughing and being scandalized over her grandmother’s escapades. The message of the film did not come across as strongly as it should because it is high time ‘s*x,’ consensual relationships, and intimacy are topics that should be talked about. The direction was as mediocre as the screenplay and story, and it had nothing to offer. If only there was an ounce of reality in this short film.
Tilchatta (Amit Ravindernath Sharma)
This tale of power, selfishness, helplessness, abuse, class, and caste division is good on paper, but when it came to execution, the story did not come out as strongly as the director intended. The makers probably had an idea to execute a story from a rural perspective because not every day do we get to see how the concept of lust is seen from a place where the concept of equality in all senses has not reached their doorstep. One only wants to survive with dignity and respect. The movie is about a dilapidated royal family from the western part of India who are still living with the idea of their glory and legacy and have not moved on from their regal hangover. The so-called king is a menace, and no one can stop him from being who he is. A serial rapist and an abusive person. This story could have been so much better if there was a deeper understanding of the terror the man unleashes, and the level of disturbance discussed further in the screenplay.
The layers of complexity were not weighed up in the narrative even though it would have added more nuance in the film. The movie was too black and white when it came to the characters. The concept of lust here was used against the person who is driven by it. The execution of it did not evoke any more overwhelming emotion than expected. Devyani had so much more to offer as a disgruntled wife, but Kajol was given more or less nothing to work on. Also, why does she have to resort to taking extreme measures? Why is she not empowered to take a decent step forward for herself and her son? This tale of remaining in constant pain with no prospective happy future sets the wrong precedent unless the climactic portion is well written and executed. The story also forgot to work on certain dynamics and characters to understand its ending. The climax was uncalled for; it seems it was done only for the shock value. Why can’t people who are suffering endlessly have a happy ending?
S*x With Ex (Sujoy Ghosh)
I’m not sure where the acclaimed director Sujoy Ghosh got this title from because the wordplay is obvious and childish. The movie is about a womanizer businessman who ends up meeting his first wife after she had disappeared years ago and running into her to reignite the passion and love he had for her. This seems like an odd setup because the story is hard to understand from the screenplay and the audience has to figure out as much as they can from the dialogue, such as it is. Why is it that there is no chemistry between them if they were supposed to have had a past? I’m not sure if the CGI and the below-par cinematography were part of the setup to make it seem like none of it was really happening, but that intent never came up during the entirety of the running time of the film.
The film was directed in such a shoddy way that the lust part of the film came out as blase, and the aftertaste is just not up to par. Bizarre is an understatement for how the film concluded. This kind of climax was uncalled for because the whole film is an amalgamation of a screenplay that gives away nothing about the characters. Why the Rajesh Roshan song was used, its significance in the plot, and why the climax had to be open-ended. It comes across as if the director wanted to close the chapter rather quickly, and this could have been the only way to do it. S*x with Ex is a strange trip down the memory lane the director should not have taken, just like the lead protagonist should have avoided hooking up with his long-lost partner.