The 2018 Lust Stories was famous for many reasons, one of which was that the directors mostly explored the lust and attraction women feel on various occasions and how they look at relationships. It was an eye-opener for the Hindi cinema space because, for the first time, they decided to explore the lust that leads to love most realistically. No stalking or song and dance routine, just two humans interacting and figuring out things about what the human body wants. The next anthology brings us four more directors exploring the same concept in their own way and helping the audience understand how differently the idea can be presented.
Made For Each Other By R. Balki
This 30-minute short film is all about marriage and sexual compatibility. It begins with Ved and Arjun’s family coming together to finally decide on the wedding date, as the two of them have decided to get married. It comes across as if the couple knows that they are compatible with each other, and that’s why involving their parents might be the right thing to do. One tiny detail they forget is their grandmother, who, to everyone’s surprise, talks about how the couple getting married should have chemistry in bed as well. She feels so because a lack of intimacy would kill the marriage from within, and the heartbreak would not be easy to get over. This would only make sense for the audience of this generation, and it is rightly portrayed in the film as well because Veda and Arjun’s parents do not understand the context or the meaning.
The grandmother talks about the intimacy she shared with her husband, and she hopes and prays Veda gets it too because that is the only reason why she remained happy all the years till her husband passed away. Her conversation creates a sense of awkwardness, but slowly Veda and Arjun understand the importance of it, and they start sleeping with each other in the days leading up to their wedding because they do not want to lose interest in each other, just like her grandmother states. The fact that this movie spoke in detail about how physical and emotional intimacy is interconnected and this makes this short film highly entertaining.
Made for Each Other ends with Veda finally letting her grandmother know that she doesn’t like to waste time on odd things when Arjun is around, which proves the point that there is deep love they share, and it is exactly what her grandmother had with her husband. Veda and Arjun finally get married, and grandmother gives them her room for their first night as a married couple. She also pushes Veda’s parents to find love in each other now that Veda would get busy with her married life. If only our grandmothers were this open about love, intimacy, attachment, and marriage.
The Mirror By Konkona Sen Sharma
This short film is a female-centric one where we get to see how the female gender looks at each other when it comes to physical pleasure and how viewers perceive pleasure to be restricted to only a certain section of society. An affluent woman, Ishita, comes back home early only to witness her maid, Seema Didi, indulging in physical pleasure with a man and they are unaware of Ishita’s presence. The peculiar part of this scenario is that Ishita enjoyed watching them, and she kept coming back home every day at that time just to be able to watch them from the mirror in the hall of her apartment and derive pleasure from the act. It is very easy to imply that Ishita indulges in voyeurism, and she is doing nothing to stop this behavior.
It showcases that woman from across strata love indulging in physical pleasures, as opposed to what we see in pop culture around us, where only women of a certain educational background and financial ability could seek to be liberated when it comes to pleasure. There is also an emphasis on how Mumbai lacks space and married couples such as Seema and her husband cannot afford a hotel to spend some time with each other. Something similar was showcased in Jee Karda a few weeks ago about a couple from a rather affluent family who do not get any privacy for their intimate moments.
Seema also notices that Ishita is looking at them, and she realizes she likes the gaze on them. It showcases Seema’s way of exploring things she desires and throws light on the fact that it is not just men who love being intimate. Ishita’s habit of gazing at them from her own home ends abruptly, and with this, they confront each other. Reality hits, and Ishita reveals her real face in the form of her classist response to the fact that women like Seema cannot use her bed. This implies that Seema’s class background makes her a part of a community that cannot aspire to the things women like Ishita do, and this is the worst thing Ishita could have said to her. It also proves Ishita is a hypocrite as well. Not that Seema is right to be using another woman’s bedroom for her own sake, but this whole situation could have been avoided if these two people had had a woman-to-woman conversation about the lack of privacy that Seema faces. The ugly fight also proves that both are right in their ways, but it is their egos and pride that clash. Most of the viewers would side with Seema after being sympathetic to her condition. Ishita had every right to be angry, but not by questioning Seema’s dignity.
The two of them reconcile most awkwardly and speak about what transpired on that unfortunate day. They finally open up about their predicament and the fact that they should have had this conversation at the beginning instead of after the fallout. Their talk ends with Ishita rehiring Seema as her maid. This short film ends with someone trying to open the door most discreetly. This could mean Ishita was coming back from work at this time because she was the only one who would open the door without making any noise. Or this could be Seema’s husband, who is back at Seema’s insistence in the afternoon.
Sex With An Ex By Sujoy Ghosh
The most bizarre film of the lot begins with what seems like a bad CGI setup in which Vijay is driving towards a meeting with his girlfriend on one video call while he has a wife and kids on the other call. It can be implied that Vijay is a womanizer, and there is no way he can stay loyal to any woman. Even though he is married to a millionaire’s daughter, he can’t seem to be able to control himself from having an extramarital affair. While on call with his girlfriend, Vijay meets with an accident. It was bound to happen because Vijay comes across as a careless man who is not bothered by the gratitude, he is supposed to show to his father-in-law for trusting him and offering him a top job at the company.
Vijay enters the town of Paraisol, which is surrounded by absurd-looking tapestries and a community center where he is enamored by this bodacious-looking woman, but he finally recognizes her to be someone from his past. The narrative up until now has been weird, as there is no connection from one scene to the next, and the dialogue does not lead anywhere. But it is assumed from Vijay’s change of expression of surprise lets out that he did not expect to run into her. He starts being handsy with her to show familiarity. The woman identifies herself as Shanti, and thus begins his quest to find out what had happened to her and where she had been all these years. Shanti happens to be his wife from many years ago, and she’d suddenly disappeared. This comes across as a disconnected narrative, and one is left trying to wonder how lust is connected to this. By the looks of it, he is interested in talking about the past only because he desires this woman after all these years.
As they open up what happened years ago which led to her disappearance, they start questioning Vijay’s current wife Anu’s narrative, for she was obsessed with him from her college days, and it is implied she was behind Shanti’s disappearance. It is implied that Vijay was blindsided, and Anu took over to make sure Shanti left his life for good, only to pave the way for herself. Shanti and Vijay finally get physically intimate with each other to relive their past and the fact that it will be this one last time before they part ways. Turns out Shanti finally understands that it was Vijay who tried to get rid of her, and not Anu, because he wanted to get rich by getting remarried to a rich girl, Anu being a prime candidate. It shows that Vijay never changed his attitude over the years, and he would always remain a sleazebag. The end of this short film is bonkers because there is no proper conclusion to what happened.
Vijay kills Shanti and runs away from her home only to realize his dead body is being removed from the car, and he most likely understands that he went into a space where he saw only dead people, and Shanti was probably one of them. Shanti in heaven is sexier than Shanti as his wife; this is why his imagination went into an overdrive of hormones, which led to the events mentioned above. It is just that Vijay was not aware that he was dead. The last line Shanti says, “Didn’t I tell you to leave?” maybe implies that he should have found out sooner that he was dead rather than roaming in this world. His death would not be a big loss because he was an unfaithful man.
Tilchatta By Amit Ravindernath Sharma
This short film is set in rural Rajasthan, where a small, run-down principality and the local man of the royal family is a known figure in the town as if he were a sheriff and a lawmaker. The man who is called ‘Maharaja’ by everyone is a drunkard and a serial rapist, but no one in the town has the power to stop his tyranny, including his wife and son. The man repeatedly rapes his wife as well, which proves the deeply rooted patriarchy that is ingrained in the man’s system. It is difficult for him to separate himself from the persona he has created for himself. People in the town, especially women, are afraid to be around him or walk past him, fearing his wrath.
His wife, Devyani, who was a prostitute with a local brothel, ended up becoming his wife. She assumed that he must have seen her at the place of her work and promised to give her a royal life, but all of it turned out to be untrue, as she knew that man was a monster in disguise who wanted nothing good for anyone, including his son. All of this is being done to set up the fact that the man deserves to die. As viewers, we can conclude from this narrative that Devyani is stuck and helpless in her situation, and she is finding ways to leave this man. She intends to move to England with her son in the hope of a better life for both. It only makes sense because, once the child graduates, he can get a job, stay away from his toxic father, and let his mother live in peace. Again, it is not clarified whether Devyani is the real mother of Ankur or his stepmother. The story of the short film bears resemblance to the Malayalam film Appan, which is about an abusive father being a burden on his legal wife and grown kids.
Devyani hires a young girl named Rekha as a maid who is enamored by the royal home, clothes, and the life she thinks all of them lead. The young girl has probably been brainwashed to believe that the life behind the walls is perfect and everyone is happy. Unknown to Rekha, or maybe she was pretending to be naive, Devyani’s husband has her in his sights because of her young age and the fact that everything about her evokes his carnal side. The so-called ‘Maharaja’ considered himself to be the sole ruler, and he believed his power would make sure any woman would be ready to go to bed with him.
One day, Devyani hears Rekha and her husband in action, which brings a smile to her face. The assumption initially was that she liked her husband sleeping with another woman, but it turns out Rekha was one of the girls from her brothel, who she was told was infected with an unspeakable disease she contracted from one of her clients. Devyani hired her, knowing her husband would try to seduce her, and with this, the infection would be what would eventually kill him, and by that time, hopefully, she and her son would be far away. She wanted his lust to be the reason for his death. The short film ends with Devyani realizing the man with Rekha in the bedroom is her son Ankur and not her husband. It was never implied in the show if Rekha and Ankur were interested in each other, and that is why adding this twist did not make sense unless he and Rekha had been together for a while, and he wanted to bed her before his father could. Devyani wanted her son to be happy and move away, and now, by the looks of things, that will not be possible because her son might die of this disease. She would again be at the mercy of her abusive husband. She was probably never destined to be happy but to live and die in that haveli, a life of sheer misery.