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Lust Stories 2 Review: Konkona Saves The Day!

June 29, 2023 12:43 IST
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Anthology movies are a strange beast.
They can be as monotonous and harmless as munching away a bumper bag of chips -- you eat one, you have to finish the rest.
Or they can be like discovering a rare treasure marked by profound insight and offbeat experiences, observes Sukanya Verma.

A condition. A characteristic. A trigger. A tool for vengeance.

Lust isn't confined within the purview of sex. Much like its precursor, Lust Stories 2 strives to examine the various roles this primal emotion is capable of beyond a lascivious imagery.

Once again featuring four short stories by four directors with a decidedly diverse film-making voice, it is a fairly worthwhile follow-up whose potential as a streaming franchise cannot be undermined.

R Balki's typical 'look-what-I-did-there' candour gets things going in the first segment.

Straight up, Neena Gupta advocates coitus before chatees gunn to her granddaughter (Mrunal Thakur) during a rishta-meet between her family and Mr Right's (Angad Bedi). A firm believer of compatibility in bed over common love for chowmein, Gupta's granny reasons, 'Chinese noodles kab tak bandhe rakhenge?'

As open-minded Balki's intentions are, there's something gratingly synthetic about how the entire episode plays out.

Rather than realising the significance of sex in long-term relationships, it becomes about living up to a senior citizen's expectations.

Even a compelling actress like Neena appears too stilted in the part of the lascivious daadi opening about her sex life to her inexperienced grandkid.

Mrunal and Angad giggle through the part as if tickled by the naivete with which the director depicts their generation. Between a preachy condom ad or public service announcement for soon-to-marry couples, take your pick.


Trust Konkona Sen Sharma to dive in and save the day.

Behind the screen or before it (Geeli Pucchi), her anthology karma is strong. A fine actor and intuitive film-maker, she has a flair for capturing the remotest of circumstances in an intimate fashion. That she almost always finds a social context to her stories renders them even more believable.

Acknowledging lust at its most basal state, she documents a fascinating give-and-take of sexual arousal when Tillotama Shome's independent working woman is caught in a bizarre situation around her reliable domestic help (Amruta Subhash).

One's dry sexuality feeding off another's unbridled passions ensues in an lustful symbiosis transcending class and common sense.

It's a wild take and Konkona doesn't hold back.

But her directorial might lie in her ability to see the underlying tenderness. Like -- Kal se aaon kya? -- a character quizzes. Even her innuendoes have feelings.

Shome's role-reversed Peeping Tom is a hoot whereas Amruta Subhash delivers another knockout as a woman unapologetic about her libido or lies.

Awkwardness is one of the trickiest emotions to pull off realistically on screen, but these two dazzling women convey it in all its truth and tangibility.

Up next, Sujoy Ghosh imagines a tête-à-tête between subconscious and guilt in the intriguing encounters of Vijay Varma and Tamannaah Bhatia.

Coloured in fanciful visuals of dreamy skies, creepily cheerful neighbourhoods and recurring musical motif of Jurm's Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaaye, there's a Dorothy in Oz quality to the yarn that gathers momentum as it draws a connection between a man's past and present following a road accident and mysterious reunion.

Though the leads engage in torrid lovemaking and amply display their scorching chemistry, sex isn't on its agenda unlike the first two explicit representations of the anthology's lust theme. More eerie than erotic, the endgame is anybody's good guess not living under the rock since Shyamalan's twist-ending era.

It's an odd little segment if only it wasn't so obvious. What's telling is the toxic pattern of lust in an individual's essential nature.

For a lot more satisfying twist, head over to Badhaai Do director Amit Ravindernath Sharma's concluding segment. Just as you're expecting a foreseeable finish, Sharma stops us in our tracks.

In the tradition of captivating short stories, it's enigmatic, imperfect and temperamental.

A depressing, downcast air envelops the mood amidst constant instances of domestic violence, wherein a depraved, down-on-luck royal (Kumud Mishra) abuses his wife (Kajol) day and night for wanting to turn their desolate haveli into a hotel and send their only son abroad for higher studies.

Sharma takes the opportunity to scoff at the milieu's deep-rooted casteism and Brahminical supremacy in humorous quips of the son's deeply religious friend -- teen mahine tak suraj nahi oogta wahan pe (England), pata nahi pani kisko chadhate hain wahan par.

Kumud Mishra plays Kajol's brutish husband with a terrifying degree of disagreeability.

Simran is a long way from the quintessential dulhania as a battered half in a hellish marriage.

Kajol's simmering disquiet gently underscores the irony between her former life and present -- a prostitute looking to be a respectable housewife only to be beaten black and blue. It's not the violence of her body, but her mind that fuels Sharma's tale of retribution that kicks off on the arrival of a seductive new maid (Anushka Kaushik).

Women-centric stories are still the mainstay in Lust Stories 2 as is its skewed 3:1 male-female director ratio, but its reluctance to tread on queer space is disappointing to say the least.

All said and done, anthology movies are a strange beast.

They can be as monotonous and harmless as munching away a bumper bag of chips -- you eat one, you have to finish the rest. Or they can be like discovering a rare treasure marked by profound insight and offbeat experiences.

Most of the time, they offer a perfect platform for actors to fan their adventurous side.

Bottomline: Let there be a Lust Stories 3.

Lust Stories 2 streams on Netflix.

Lust Stories 2 Review Rediff Rating:

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