Netflix’s ‘Lust Stories’ is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and while the recent dearth of good Lollywood cinema (apart from ‘Cake’) has left me weeping, this gutsy, brilliant film across the border has given hope that it might just trigger our potential to unearth. While Indian cinema has more often than not always romanticised sex at its surface, merely using it as a trigger in item songs or in frivolous dialogue, Netflix’s ’Lust Stories’ is far more layered in its laudable attempt to discuss sex with a twist; lust.
What is lust? It’s a strong sexual desire often driven by guilt or shame
…Along with the chagrin attached to it and as the title suggests, these aren’t stories about love (as is the norm in Bollywood). Rather, these are stories all about ‘lust’ and sex, and so much more. The anthology film isn’t one you come to if you’re looking for a ‘good time’ because it cleverly deciphers the mess us humans leave behind in the chaos of sexual desire. Directors Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar reunite after the success of film ‘Bombay Talkies,’ as they dissect apart matters of the human heart, all the while sipping up problems that plague Indian society like patriarchy, wealth disparities and the caste system.
I personally adored Zoya’s film the most for its breathtakingly minimalistic approach to the subject
Bhumi Pednekar is sensational as maid Suhda having a secret affair with her employer. We’re only shown what takes place within the apartment, and despite Bhumi’s character having the least amount of dialogue, it’s her story that hits home. Bhumi is simply mesmerizing in Zoya’s exquisitely crafted coming-of-age story; she accepts her fate as a maid and unfit to be with the man she loves. We know they’re having spectacular sex, but because of the economic and social disparities that lie in society they won’t end up together (Suhda and her lover have accepted it, and we have too).
Karan’s film is also worthy of praise for its very Karan-esque version of storytelling
In particular, there is one scene where he recreates his iconic caricature of ‘Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham’s family anthem and uses it as a drown out for Kiara Advani’s character having her very first orgasm (he’s basically trolling his own work). Kiara plays the virgin who has always played safe – she’s achingly pure but her proliferating determination to seek sexual pleasure is noteworthy. She marries a man who doesn’t understand that sex isn’t just for him, but for her too in a short film that tackles marital problems inside the bedroom in the utmost remarkable manner.
Anurag’s film with Radhika Apte is unexpected and far from predictable
Kalindi (played by Rhadika) is the unstable teacher who sleeps with her student and becomes obsessed with him. She’s unarguably the most fascinating character of all four female protagonists, and honestly the most wackadoo too – she insists she’s in a long distance relationship with a man we’ve never seen as she constantly breaks the fourth wall, however, the film is far too long; I found myself trying to find the black screen for the next one as I hovered over the Netflix timeline.
All in all, ‘Lust Stories’ is fantastic, and paves a new path for Indian artistry in film anthologies
While Bollywood is at most overtly dramatized, this Netflix film stays true to the realness of life. The films are left either unresolved or ended on a bitter and uncomforting note. The older generation is uninformed about sex, while the younger generation keyed in on struggles to deal with its problems simply because it does not understand how to. ‘Lust Stories’ is a brilliant blend of filmmaking by four directors who have established themselves as topliners of the game.
Have you seen the film? Let us know what you thought about it!