Lust Stories (2018) Hindi Movie Review – Veeyen


‘Lust Stories’ takes a sneak peek at what it means to be a woman with a defined sexuality in India, and offers at least a couple of unquestioned triumphs in the process. Sporting an impish charm and delight that is often uncharacteristic of commercial Indian cinema, this is an omnibus that is a slightly uneven bag for sure, but one that remains unified through its individual films’ highs and lows.


Lust-Stories

‘Lust Stories’ takes a sneak peek at what it means to be a woman with a defined sexuality in India, and offers at least a couple of unquestioned triumphs in the process. Sporting an impish charm and delight that is often uncharacteristic of commercial Indian cinema, this is an omnibus that is a slightly uneven bag for sure, but one that remains unified through its individual films’ highs and lows.

Anurag Kashyap’s segment is my personal favourite, the reasons being many. For one, it has the inimitable Radhika Apte playing Kalindi, a college professor who has got all her mathematics wrong. It is also the most blatant exposition on sexual denial that I have watched on Indian screen as yet; an intricately etched study on raw desire that openly challenges and mocks at established notions of sexual identity and love.

A much married Kalindi displays no qualms of walking into her student Tejas’ (Akash Tosar) apartment, and luring him into sex. She’s horrified at the prospects of the young boy turning into a stalker now that he has discovered sex and love at her behest, and reiterates that they should continue being friends. At the college though, Kalindi has a panic attack, is petrified that she might be prosecuted for having had sex with the boy and makes him record a statement that he is an adult and that the sex was consensual.

Lust Stories

Tejas moves on, and starts having a fling with his classmate Natasha (Ridhi Khakhar). This drives the professor nuts, and she starts stepping down a stairway of doom, turning increasingly obsessive and destructive, much to Tejas’ astonishment. The climax in particular is a stunner; the thudding abruptness with which it all ends, and the matchless expression that remains on the boy’s face as his hanger-on hurriedly walks away.

There is an eerie disquiet in Kashyap’s film that remains hidden, which is diligently wrapped up in plenty of humour, most of which is woven into the hilariously sombre monologues that Kalindi indulges in. Initially though, she strikes you as grave, but as the shell gradually breaks away and the hatchling inside emerges, Kalindi stands stripped naked before you – a frail, perplexed woman who frantically strives to flaunt her illusory openness through layers and layers of empty, verbal, philosophical foliage.

Zoya’s segment is set within the confines of a flat, where a housemaid named Sudha (Bhumi Padnekar) is seen giving it to the sexual advances of her employer Ajit (Neil Bhoopalam). The sex over, she addresses him in mock abusive terms, suggesting that whatever they have been sharing is nothing new and that she has long grown used to it.

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When Ajit’s parents land back from a holiday, they tug along a prospective marriage alliance for their son. The future bride and her family pay a visit, and Sudha who has by now retreated into a conch, serves them tea and cookies. She surprisingly has grown invisible to Ajit who looks excited at the impending wedding, and leaves the house for the day, carrying back home her share of the sweets, that Ajit’s mother insists that she take with her.

This is a delicious film that has the bitter sweet flavour of a love that can and never will be realized, and of the sour acknowledgement of it. It is also the most haunting one of the lot, that reverberates with the unfairness called life, and of how methodically individuals force themselves to get used to this injustice that they take in their stride. Embroidered with assistive dialogues mouthed by almost everyone else except the leading protagonists, it’s a tight rope act that pays off in unforeseen ways.

Manisha Koirala plays Reena in Dibakar Banerjee’s segment, a woman who has been having an affair for long with Sudhir (Jaideep Ahlawat), her husband Salman’s (Sanjay Kapoor) best friend. When a perturbed Salman rings up Sudhir and starts explaining how distant and impassive Reena has of late been, little does he realize that she has been lying snuggled up, all comfy with his pal on the latter’s beach house bed.

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Banerjee’s film dwells on a marriage that is in shambles, of love that has moved on and of bodies that have sought fresh pastures. Reena is unapologetic about the clandestine relationship that she had been having with Sudhir, and insists that they break the news to Salman at the earliest. When her husband turns up all flustered at the beach house, Reena sits him down and tells him what had gone wrong, and what lies ahead.

There is without doubt an invisible sexual power that Reena still wields, one that makes Salman feeble and powerless before her, even as he brandishes a fictional machismo all around. On bed, after the devastating revelation, he lies sobbing, as she casually leaves through the pages of a book. It’s here that Banerjee’s film emerges a frank depiction of the fluctuating power heads in sexual politics, with the woman establishing a distinct, unbeatable lead.

Karan Johar’s exploration of female sexuality finds shape in Megha (Kiara Advani), a newly wed young girl who is appalled at how quick her husband Paras (Vicky Kaushal) finishes off things, especially in bed. She takes to counting seconds and discovers that it usually lasts not much longer than she can finish off the fingers in a free hand.

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Her suggestive implorations are lost on Paras, who is quite oblivious that want, of any sort, could exist in women. When Megha runs into Rekha (Neha Dhupia), a colleague at the school where she works, busying herself in a self-satisfying session in the library, she is stunned. But that doesn’t stop her from grabbing the vibrator away, and finally deciding to give it a go herself. As she gets all set for the task, armed with the device in position, Megha is summoned to the living room, where the granny of the house starts playing around with the remote, mistaking it for the one for the TV!

Johar’s film is by far the most light-hearted of the lot, and remains erotically charged throughout. It strategically places Rekha as the catapult that would propel Megha into a journey of sexual discovery, while Paras emerges a representative of the archetypal Indian middle class male who expects a wife to lie back and bask herself in (non-existent) bliss as he performs his obligatory duties in bed.

‘Lust Stories’ has spot-on performances from its leading cast, be it Radhika Apte with a deeply candid performance that leaves no stones unturned, Bhumi Padnekar in a subdued, mellowed down avatar that stirs up a poignant storm, Manisha Koirala with a solemn feat that often gives her male co-stars a run for their money, and Kiara Advani and Neha Dhupia, who blend oodles of sensuousness in their adventures  down the female sexuality trail. The men are no less efficient, and how could one forget the charming incorruptibility that Akash Tosar spouts or the hilarious self-centredness  that Vicky Kaushal so flagrantly exhibits! Last but certainly not the least, there are also competent supportive performances from Neil Bhoopalam, Jaideep Ahlawat and Sanjay Kapoor.

The four vignettes in ‘Lust Stories’ despite a very apparent common theme, are diverse in tone, but play along like a symphony, almost orchestrated to fineness. Biting witty and mostly fun, it’s a rich assortment; an anthology that’s worth your weekend evening time.


Verdict: Worth a Watch


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