Anthologies have always held a special place in the world of storytelling, offering a collection of diverse narratives that are bound together by a common theme. They often provide a more engaging and intriguing experience than a traditional feature film, as they delve into different stories while maintaining a sense of coherence.
Lust Stories 2, the much-awaited second edition of the anthology, is now streaming on Netflix, presenting four distinct shorts that weave together a heady blend of love, desire, sex, shame, guilt, revenge, and betrayal, all centered around the theme of lust.
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Similar to its predecessor, Lust Stories 2 takes on a primarily female perspective, exploring modern-day relationships through the lens of sexuality and physical desires. The anthology boasts the directorial talents of four skilled filmmakers: R Balki, Konkona Sen Sharma, Sujoy Ghosh, and Amit Sharma. Each director offers a unique perspective on how a woman’s sexuality is commonly perceived in our society and highlights the need for change.
The anthology kicks off with R Balki’s short, where two families are attempting to arrange a marriage between their children, portrayed by Mrunal Thakur and Angad Bedi. However, the matriarch of the family, played by the talented Neena Gupta, believes that ‘sexual compatibility’ is crucial in determining if a couple is well-suited for a long-lasting relationship.
Balki injects humor into this otherwise complex and taboo subject. Neena Gupta’s character brings forth the hypocrisy of families that claim to be modern and open-minded but shy away from discussing topics related to sex.
Her dialogues are delivered with sincerity and straightforwardness, resulting in a comical yet relatable portrayal. Although Mrunal and Angad exhibit cute chemistry as they dash through hotel corridors, their performances lack depth. Angad, in particular, deserved more screen time and dialogue opportunities. Neena Gupta, on the other hand, skillfully broaches the forbidden topic in a hilariously engaging manner, leaving the audience with a smile.
Konkona Sen Sharma’s segment takes a darker and more intense turn, delving into the hidden desires of women that often remain unspoken in society. The stellar performances by Tillotama Shome and Amruta Subhash make it difficult to determine who shines brighter.
They bring a level of finesse and authenticity to their characters that are beyond perfection. The previous Lust Stories introduced Bhumi Pednekar as a household involved in a sexual relationship with the bachelor she serves.
In Lust Stories 2, Amruta takes the concept to new heights, infusing her character with additional layers and dimensions. Tillotama’s portrayal is equally impressive, as she fearlessly navigates challenging scenes, delivering a convincing performance.
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Konkona’s segment stands out as my personal favorite due to its exceptional storytelling, narrative structure, screenplay, and aesthetics. It effortlessly highlights the class divide and reveals that lust knows no boundaries of caste, color, or gender.
The director skillfully communicates with the audience through the silence of her characters, leaving a profound impact. There is much left unsaid, allowing viewers to make assumptions and draw conclusions, yet Konkona leaves no room for doubt.
The comfortable portrayal of the protagonists in their own skin speaks volumes about the director’s understanding of the subject matter. One scene, where Amruta smiles while lying with her children and husband in their cramped house, triggers a cascade of thoughts.
It is a beautifully written and expertly shot sequence that bravely explores women’s acceptance of their sexual desires and encourages them to feel no shame. Konkona’s segment subtly yet powerfully conveys this message.
Sujoy Ghosh’s segment, while highly anticipated, unfortunately falls short in comparison. Apart from the buzz surrounding Vijay Varma and Tamannaah Bhatia’s on-screen chemistry and their much-talked-about kiss, the film fails to captivate and lacks a strong hook.
Both actors, known for their exceptional acting abilities, deliver average performances that fail to strike a chord or leave a lasting impression. The segment initially shows promise but loses its direction midway, ultimately feeling lackluster and unengaging.
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Notably, the set design is quite peculiar, with a countryside feel featuring clouds, trees, and houses reminiscent of a children’s cartoon book. Whether this choice was intentional to create a specific ambiance remains unclear, but it proves highly distracting.
In terms of story development, Ghosh attempts to build suspense and drama, but by the time the big reveal occurs, it feels too late to fully engage the audience. The convoluted plot could have been simplified to convey the intended message more effectively. Tamannaah and Vijay portray a couple engaged in an extramarital affair, and their chemistry shines only in those moments together. The short would have benefited from a more developed backstory and a less rushed pace.
However, the anthology saves the best for last with Amit Sharma’s segment, featuring powerhouse performances by Kajol and Kumud Mishra. Although the story may not be extraordinary, the twist in the climax delivers a powerful punch and is brilliantly conceptualized. Amit, who previously directed Badhaai Ho, which touched on sexual desires among elderly couples, steps into more complex and intense territory in Lust Stories 2.
The inclusion of a subplot involving sex workers adds depth to the segment, transforming it into a tale that explores sexual violence beyond just couples. While the story may seem predictable at times, the director deserves credit for maintaining suspense and creating hype around the ultimate climax.
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In comparison to the protagonists in the previous three shorts, Kajol’s character appears the most docile, yet she endures the most hardship, with fate rarely favoring her, even when she exhibits courage by taking bold steps. Kajol’s flawless on-screen presence speaks volumes, often conveying a wealth of emotion with minimal dialogue.
Kumud Mishra delivers a terrific performance as the embodiment of ancient patriarchy, effectively generating a strong sense of hatred towards his character. Together, their scenes evoke discomfort and helplessness, successfully driving home the point the segment aims to make.
As a whole, Lust Stories 2 presents a captivating two-hour exploration of women’s sexuality from their own perspectives. While there are a few hits and misses, the anthology offers substance that surpasses any dramatic distractions, allowing viewers to appreciate brilliant performances and absorb the important message it conveys. Don’t miss out on this thought-provoking anthology, now available for streaming on Netflix.