Lust Stories cast: Bhumi Pednekar, Neil Bhoopalam, Kiara Advani, Vicky Kaushal, Neha Dhupia, Manisha Koirala, Sanjay Kapoor, Radhika Apte, Jaideep Ahlawat, Akash Thosar
Lust Stories directors: Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar
The feeling of lust is not exclusive to men. Yet, women rarely express it. Most certainly, never like a group of male friends discussing their passionate stirrings or euphemistically speaking about their attraction and liking for someone. Women would probably giggle and mention the little crush they have on, let’s say, an acquaintance, teacher, colleague, celebrity or a sportsperson in very a casual manner. Most women are quite skilled at hiding their yearnings, suppressing or dismissing them altogether. After all, good girls can’t be lusty.
That’s why an omnibus of four short films told by as many prominent directors of Hindi cinema – Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar – which released on Netflix under the title of Lust Stories on June 15 is so refreshing. Woman characters and their desires are at the heart of each of these stories. Their desires are not always of the purely sexual kind. Instead, they are associated with the search for their identity, struggle to live life on their own terms and discovering life’s many pleasures. So finally, these Hindi filmmakers seem to be digging deeper into the subject that has, so far, remained under wraps, just like a woman’s body is draped in a dupatta, unless we are counting the popular movies of the yore in which it’s only a ‘vamp’ who was shown lusting after the ‘hero’. They were mostly condemned or suffered ignominy.
Kalindi (Radhika Apte) in Kashyap’s short is a professor in a long distance and open relationship. She is not able to handle her dalliances with as much ease as her husband can. Her experiments are ridden with guilt. Her contradictory behaviour hardly helps the matter, making her struggle to make sense of the complex matter of man-woman relationship.
After Kalindi’s questioning, when Akhtar introduces Sandhya (Bhumi Pednekar), her silent acceptance of her social class and exploitation exposes the deep-rooted discriminatory attitude of the society. Interestingly, you see Sandhya, a domestic help, holding equal power as her employer when they are in bed. When he calls her “gandi saali”, she doesn’t hesitate to say “nanga saala”.
Banerjee’s story is more about a woman’s search for her space, maybe take a break from the roles of being a mother and wife that the society has assigned to her. Reena (Manisha Koirala) tries to reclaim her life, for a while, when she secretly spends some time with her husband’s best friend. While she seems to be prepared to face the consequences of it, it’s the men who have a problem accepting it.
Johar serves a delicious take on how Indian men remain oblivious to women’s desires. True to his style, his women strut around in dangerously low blouses while men appear bewildered. The guardians of society try to make the women fit into a box but no force of nature can be controlled.
After a few misses, Netflix, known for its edgy content, scores by picking up these tales which document the set ways of society as well as the changing dynamics, that’s not confined to under the bedsheets. These are fun, poignant and introspective tales that attempt to unravel the mysteries of women’s heart.