Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap and Karan Johar came together to make a short film each, the sum of which formed a larger film called 'Bombay Talkies'. The film was made as a mark of respect for and celebration of Hindi cinema completing hundred years of its existence. All the four films had a common theme - cinema. This time around, the four of them have joined forced to put together a film which deals with the theme of lust. It is a subject that has been seldom explored in Hindi cinema and it is interesting to see four of the most prolific filmmakers around to come together to weave a narrative each on this theme.
Of the four stories, my favourite is the one directed by Karan Johar. His film talks about the way women are looked upon as asexual beings in the largely orthodox Indian society and how, for them, sex is equated with something that they have to do to bear children. Megha, the character played by Kiara Advani, represents a large number of women in our country who suffer from repression and do not get an opportunity to express themselves sexually or otherwise. Johar delivers a strong message while layering his story with dollops of humour. Watch out for the scene where the title track of 'Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham', another of Johar's films, plays in the background while Megha is having a moment. It is funny and at the same time, you realise Johar is trying to convey to the audience how his sensibilities have evolved since over the years. I liked the subtlety and the verboseness of Dibakar's film. Manisha Koirala proves yet again why she is widely regarded as one of the finest actresses to have worked in Hindi cinema. Sanjay Kapoor, too, delivers an impressive performance proving that the Hindi film industry ought to have tapped his talent better. Jaideep Ahlawat, who recently delivered a majuscule performance in 'Raazi, is in fine form here too. I was expecting a dramatic outburst by Sudha (Bhumi Pednekar), a young woman in love with the man whom she works as a maid for and who used to satisfy her carnal desires or a confrontation between the two but the maturity and subtleness with which Zoya does justice to the theme and fleshes out the story is commendable. My least favourite of all the films was the one directed by Anurag Kashyap. It is far from being disengaging or tedious but a lot of things in the film, including Radhika Apte's performance seemed laboured. The film had its moments but for some reason, it seemed to me that Anurag was trying rather hard to put across a point. This is in sharp contrast to Zoya's film where the narrative trudged along smoothly.
The film is replete with memorable performances. While it is great to see Manisha Koirala back on the big screen after a long time, it is equally elating to see young talent like Akash Thosar (he made his debut in the Marathi blockbuster 'Sairat') continuing to do good work. My favourite performance was from my favourite film of the lot. Kiara Advani lends vulnerability, grace and a hint of mischief to Megha's character wonderfully and shows that she is one of the finest but underutilised talents around. Vicky Kaushal is a fine actor but he goes overboard in a few scenes while trying to bring to fore some of the quirkiness of the na?ve Paras. Bhumi Pednekar barely has any lines but she conveys a lot through her silence and expressive face. Neil Bhoopalan is brilliant too; he makes it difficult for you to figure out whether to loathe him or not. Nikita Dutta, a popular face on television, makes her presence felt as the unsuspecting Shreya who is oblivious to all that has transpired between her future husband and the woman who works for him as a maid.
'Bombay Talkies' had come five years ago. One just hopes one does not have to wait for that long for the four filmmakers (or another set of filmmakers) to come together to put forth their vision towards making a thematic motion picture.