Even as one waits for theatrical business to get back to normalcy and big screen entertainment being presented to audiences all over again, OTTs are thankfully keeping viewers busy. In fact Karan Johar has been regularly contributing to the OTT space via anthologies and now there is Ajeeb Daastaans that has been produced by him for Netflix. As indicated in the well cut trailer, each of the four stories in Ajeeb Daastaans, as the very title indicates, is expected to be ‘ajeeb’ and would have a major twist in the end. Considering the fact that such twisted tales are a personal favourite for me, I set myself up to watch this anthology by four directors who have come up with a story each that lasts 30-40 minutes.
The director of Dulhania franchise (Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania) and Dhadak game puts together the first film in the anthology, Majnu, and the darker shades that he uses in the film are closer to the dramatic overtones of Dhadak than the feel-good factor of his two Dulhania films. He also deserves credit for making the best of the four films in Ajeeb Daastaans as he maintains a certain graph from start to finish, with a double twist treatment that makes it a paisa vasool affair.
The film comes to the point straight away as Jaideep Ahlawat does an Aditya Roy Kapur a la Kalank as he announces before Fatima Sana Sheikh on his wedding night itself that he won’t be able to accept her but she would need to maintain ‘maryaada’ of the shaahi haweli and its residents. Well, she doesn’t take the Alia Bhatt route and instead goes totally bindaas, only to lure anyone wearing pants who enters the haweli. Steps in the ‘gabru’ hunk Armaan Ralhan who continues to resist the temptation of falling for Fatima. However the question is, for how long? And also, whether Jaideep will get to know?
In the midst of it all there is rich-poor divide, money laundering, surprise affairs, a lurking ‘raaz’ and ‘love sex aur dhokha’ that comes in, something which makes the last three scenes the most important of Majnu. This one is fun.
Director Raj Mehta went feel good in Good Newwz and kept the narrative fun and frothy there. However in Khilauna, even though the cinematography may suggest a lively set up, the emotions soaked in by the protagonists are definitely much darker.
Each of the characters in there has a reason to carry some venom. Nushrat Bharucha steps in as a maid who not just knows her sexuality but also realises how she can use her poverty to her advantage. While she teaches her younger sister Inayat Verma too the same virtue, her boyfriend Abhishek Banerjee, a roadside iron-man, tries to instil some reasoning. Meanwhile, there is Mr.-Lusty-Eyes-On-The-Bike who channelises his inner Shakti Kapoor from the 80s and demands some time out from Nushrat. In the midst of this all there is a murder that takes place and the good part is that Khilauna doesn’t just act as a whodunit but also as ‘who has been murdered actually’.
There is certain interest level that is maintained in this story though it would have been better had the narrative been crisper. There are some intermittent scenes that stretch and certain cliched moments doesn’t quite end up making this ‘daastaan’ too much ‘ajeeb’. Also, the revelation of the killer is more surprising than shocking as the whole modus operandi comes across as way too far fetched.
As for the performers, Nushrat yet again brings in a bewitching side of hers though she is way too proper to be truly convincing as a maid. Abhishek is reliable as ever and suits his part well, while on the other hand Inayat is good till she is controlled but once given a free rein, she is all over the place at a couple of points, as was the case with her in Ludo as well where she acted with the other Abhishek (Bachchan).
All in all, a decent watch.
This one by Neeraj Ghaywan could have been so much better had it been shorter by 15 minutes. Really, the core subject material of Geeli Pucchi (wet kiss) didn’t really have much out there by means of narration and would have worked better as a shorter film. The stage is set when Konkona Sen Sharma, totally de-glamorised for the part of a factory worker, finds herself face to face with her far more beautiful contemporary Aditi Rao Hydari. Former wants to be an accountant instead but latter gets the job as she uses her innocence to her advantage while also belonging to an upper caste. In the midst of it all there is The Married Woman mood created as well with one woman settling down to the realisation of her sexuality and another wondering whether it’s natural for her.
Now all of this could well have been interesting but then the middle portions of the film drag, and how. Somehow you feel that not much is happening and even when it all does indeed, you don’t quite get engaged. However, it’s the concluding moments which turn out to be truly shocking and something that you didn’t quite see coming. It all seems justified at this point in time and this is also where you acknowledge the performances of both Konkona and Aditi the most.
Watch this for the conclusion.
It’s not quite the grand finale for Ajeeb Daastaans as the last story turns out to be the weakest of the lot. Kayoze Irani directs Ankahi which is about lives of four people intersecting due to one common factor – ‘the spoken word’.’ Shefali Shah and Tota Roy Chowdhury are parents to a teenage daughter who can’t hear. Father wants technology as a way to enhance her hearing skills while mother believes in emotional therapy till then. While the squabbles happen all the time, there is a photographer Manav Kaul who also can’t hear and chooses to refuse hearing aids he believes that it’s better for eyes to do the talking as they never lie.
This one could well have been a sweet little tale but somehow the scenes that are written don’t quite bring on the apt emotional appeal. A love story seems to be developing but that’s more of montages in motion than actual depth setting in. As for the finale, it is not quite convincing as it seems like a decision has been taken in the spur of the moment and perhaps there is a study that was waiting to be told big got cut short abruptly. While Shefali is fair in Ankahi, it’s Manav who towers as a performer.