By Ambar Chatterjee
'Lust Stories packs a punch with its treatment, performances and quirky comedy'
Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar
Radhika Apte, AkashThosar, Bhumi Pednekar, Neil Bhoopalam, Manisha Koirala, Jaideep Ahlawat, Sanjay Kapoor, Kiara Advani, Vicky Kaushal, Neha Dhupia
When Alma (Alfred Hitchcock's wife) asked him in a doubtful tone about the sensibility of making "Psycho" (Hitchcock's most popular film) based on the book of the same name, considering its macabre content that really didn't go down too well with audiences of those times, the maestro replied in his usual solemn manner, saying "What if someone really good made a horror picture out of it?" The rest, as they say, is history.
I had a very similar feeling to what Mr. Hitchcock had to say about the content of "Psycho" after watching "Lust Stories". Here is a film that in lesser hands would have turned into a run-of-the-mills' sleaze fest but in the hands of Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar, it turns into a highly sensitive, affecting and enormously funny film that gives the viewers 4 climaxes.
Kalindi Mam (Radhika Apte) is married to the love of her life but sets out to seek adventure and self-discovery with her student Tejas (AkashThosar) who might just be around 21 years old. After consummating with him, she is scared that he might get sensitive about her and turn into a stalker but what happens is exactly the opposite of it.
Sudha (Bhumi Pednekar) is a domestic help who is having a roaring sexual relationship with her employer Ajit (Neil Bhoopalam) until his parents visit him to fix up his marriage with a girl. The family of the girl soon visits Bhoopalam's house and things get interesting.
Reena (Manisha Koirala) is somewhat unhappily married to Salman (Sanjay Kapoor) and having an extramarital affair with his friend Sudhir (Jaideep Ahlawat). Things turn ugly when she is unable to juggle between the two and decides to tell her husband about her infidelities'.
Megha (Kiara Advani) is a school teacher who apparently dreams of a rollicking sex life even though she never had any. After her marriage to Paras (Vicky Kaushal), her dreams take a serious beating as Vicky climaxes in 5 thrusts every night. Desperate for some action, she takes her friend Rekha's (Neha Dhupia) advice and brings home a tool that nearly wrecks her marriage.
The heart and soul of "Lust Stories" lies in its performances. Radhika Apte kicks off the film with a performance that is bewildering. Her character breaks the third wall throughout, bounces from a state of bliss to agony in a matter of seconds, literally bullies the character of AkashThosar and nearly breaks his 55k worth TV. She is insane and in the end of it all you are left in splits by the way she ends the story. It can't be ignored that our reaction is also a result of the bewildered look on Akash's face which we can fully relate with. We know Radhika has the ability to carry a film on her own but here she does a better job than what I have seen her do in years.
BhoomiPednekar speaks two words in her whole essay. It's her expressions that convey the emotions and her state of mind. The gloom that I saw on her face when she saw her man getting cozy with another woman on the same bed that they shared their innuendoes on was heart-breakingly real. Her skin turns unusually dark in that portion and it felt as if she would either just burst into tears or as if she would shout her guts out. This was the only segment that was not funny in any way.
Manisha Koirala is great in her piece even though this was the piece that was the least affecting and funny. It had its heart in the right place but something just didn't click about the whole story. That wouldn't mean that I would take away the credits of Koirala, Ahlawat and Sanjay Kapoor who all did a fantastic job with their essays. They felt real, hit the right timings and never made you question their performances.
Kiara Advani and Vicky Kaushal wonderfully complement each other in their part. Kaushal is a goofy yet likable man who just doesn't know what to say and when to say. Kiara's frustration at not being able to make him understand her needs adds further weight to the undercurrent of lust or desire that is already flowing hard and deep which ultimately leads to the sensational climax. Johar throws in a masterstroke with the "KabhiKhushiKabhiGhum" tune. This was the funniest of the stories and my favorite too. Neha Dhupia turns in a catchy and intelligent act that is bound to grab eyeballs.
For a film that calls itself "Lust Stories", this film deals exceptionally well with the subject matter in a manner that never for a second make it feel cheap or vulgar. The sexual undercurrent is present in every segment but it is always a result of an emotional turmoil or awakening. Never for once is it used for cheap histrionics. Add to that a group of directors who deal sensitively with the issues at hand and you have a picture that is just perfect for a time like this. I still wonder whether it would have got a clean chit from the censors and that too without any cuts. Probably it's best that it released in the Netflix platform.
A film like "Lust Stories" is not made often in Bollywood. It treads a dicey territory and comes out trumps. I loved it for its stories, its performances, its comedy and above all its flamboyant ways of putting out the reality with gusto. It might just be the case that Bollywood might find a new platform to summarily bring out the other side of their creativity that generally gets censored in terms of sex and violence and even cuss words. We might soon have a time when a parallel Bollywood of the web is created owing to the presence of platforms like Netflix, Amazon etc. "Sacred Games" is on the way. We have already had shows like Bose: Dead/Alive, Breathe,etc that had A-List Stars and absolutely rocked. The future is looking bright even though I am keeping my fingers crossed.