Lust Stories to begin with is you, me and literally everyone from any generation ever. Directed by Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar, Netflix's Lust Stories is an anthology, showcasing stories of relationships across different people. People from various generations, caste locations, socio economic status and upbringing. But, with the common ground being - Lust.
With this anthology, the directors come together again after Bombay Talkies and deliver a fine watch. The 2-hour watch, divided into four parts, begins with Kalindi's story. Radhika Apte plays a college professor who is in a long distance marriage with Mihir and in an experimental stage with her man. With Mihir encouraging an open relationship, Kalindi finds herself contemplating the concepts of love, attraction and so on as she starts a fling with one of her students, Tejas (Akash Thosar). How she deals with the men she is attracted to is what follows.
Through this part of the story, Anurag gives us a very realistic picture of open relationships, age gaps and also the 'logic' behind how a woman can be attracted to or rather inclined towards two men at the same. We also see how the director connects the story to the influence of technology through Kalindi, to whom Radhika gives the best face. The actor is a natural and gives one of her best performances yet. We laugh and very much relate to her girl-next-door yet sophisticated narratives. The director-actor duo definitely make for an intriguing collaboration.
We then move on to Zoya Akhtar’s film involving Bhumi Pednekar and Neil. In this story, the director presents to us a tale of lust between a domestic worker and her boss. Zoya presents a very raw screenplay of the relationship between a woman from the lower class and the upper middle class man for whom she works. Most of our takeaways from the film come through Bhumi’s endearing performance which is all conveyed through expressions and barey any dialogues.
Zoya manages to capture the essence of Lust Stories with just the first sex scene itself. She nowhere tries to paint a rosy picture of people's everyday sex lives, making us realise what a rare thing this is in Indian cinema.
The third part, directed by Dibakar Banerjee, presents the story of Reena (Manisha Koirala) who is having an affair with Sudhir (Jaideep Ahlawat), her underappreciating husband, Salman's (Sanjay) best friend. What Dibakar does through Lust Stories is not a cliched projection of yet another extramarital affair. The screenplay very smoothly showcases the frustrations of a woman in such a situation, the ignorance of the men and a person's vulnerability towards friendship and attraction.
Manisha is a delight to watch as she plays Reena, the woman who has to keep everything together for no reason whatsoever. We've probably never looked at forced togetherness or the craving for another being handled the way it is, in this story. Both, Manisha Koirala and Jaideep Ahlawat prove their versatility with this story of a very chaotic situation faced by three adults. And Sanjay is quite the perfect middle man.
Post this, we reach Karan Johar’s world. His segment in Lust Stories is not particularly filmy, but yet has the Karan touch. The last part of the anthology follows the story of Megha Verma (Kiara Advani), a young school teacher, her whacky and seductive colleague Rekha played by Neha Dhupia, and Megha’s weirdly goofy husband played by Vicky Kaushal.
The story follows Megha’s journey of dealing with a husband who is at it night after night and yet fails to understand the basics of sex and the female orgasm. All of this and more is highlighted aptly by Karan. This story too is bold, upfront and has got women characters who are unapologetically themselves, despite society’s prejudices and taboos. Neha’s role as Rekha is brutally honest and her lines are very much what is required in such genre of cinema representing everyday humans. It's also during the last part that Lust Stories leaves us in splits and manages to create an impact, at the same time. While we don’t want to give away the brilliant scene that shapes Megha’s life, aced by Kiara Advani, all we can say is that Karan recreates the famous Ugly Truth scene for this Hindi drama, and that’s a defining moment.
Unsatisfactory sex lives, the importance of communication during intimacy, arranged marriages, elderly taboos and many more come into the limelight. Lust Stories gives us characters and narratives, matters of the heart and body that we are going to ponder for a long time after. The anthology has a fine cast and brings together actors who fit the bill very well. Actors, who get etched in our minds as Sudhir, Sudha, Kalindi and so on.
Through every story, the film breaks the suffocating silence regarding sex and the stigmas associated with it. Lastly, Lust Stories gives us honest perspectives of four woman. Their liberation, thoughts, decisions and everything else packaged perfectly. Cinematically, it is not your average romantic comedy experience. From the casting to the screenplay and an urban Mumbai setup and the music with compositions like Prateek Kuhad’s Tune Kaha and more, we realise how this film doesn’t follow the blueprint of any other. The Netflix watch is a very Indian - lust drama-comedy to say best. It is layered and has definitely more than what meets the eye.