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Ajeeb Daastaans review: A couple of films shine in this ambitious anthology

The anthology explores complex human emotions and relationships

Source: SIFY

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Monday 19 April 2021

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Movie Title

Ajeeb Daastaans review: A couple of films shine in this ambitious anthology

Director

Shashank Khaitan, Raj Mehta, Neeraj Ghaywan, Kayoze Irani

Star Cast

Aditi Rao Hydari, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Jaideep Ahlawat, Abhishek Bannerjee, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Manav Kaul, Shefali Shah, Konkana Sensharma

Anthologies can be tricky—while each short film is independent, they also come together under one umbrella and affect each other. Which is why it’s difficult to critique the anthology as a whole, so varying is the impact of the four stories. In Ajeeb Daastaans, the team of (all-male) directors give us four stories exploring love, sexuality, class privilege, cast divide, and so on.

Majnu

Majnu directed by Shashank Khaitan (Badrinath Ki Dulhania) has Fatima Sana Shaikh play a hapless wife married to a local politician Babloo (Jaideep Ahlawat) who claims to love someone else. Lonely and angry, she flirts with men to rile him. Her dialogue asking her husband to have the courage to tolerate cheating as he too has cheated her into marriage says everything.  

When Babloo hires a young and strapping new recruit, it sends ripples through the mansion as many relationships come undone. The film reminds one of Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (incidentally, Randeep Hooda’s character was named Babloo in the film) as here too you have the feared saheb, a lonely biwi, and a strapping new recruit who unsettles everything. With tepid performances and straitjacketed characterization (for example, we know nothing of the wife’s character except that she is lonely), this story barely leaves an impact, despite the few twists it throws our way.

Khilauna

Khilauna directed by Raj Mehta (Good Newwz) has a Parasite-like vibe in the beginning, where house-help (Nushrratt Bharuccha) and her little sister (Inayat Verma) fake emotions and manipulate their way into a local politician’s home. However, their shrewdness is innocent and a means to survive. The bond between the two sisters is the highlight of the film. There are a few problematic scenes where a man jokingly threatens to burn the two sisters, and Nushrratt’s character is oddly harsh to a woman who can’t have a baby. It’s a dark story that has shock-value, but doesn’t quite manage to take you along.

Geeli Pucchi

The lone female factory worker on the floor, Bharti (Konkona Sen Sharma) is used to surviving without basic facilities like a segregated toilet. When the overly-friendly upper-caste Priya (Aditi Rao Hydari, wonderful) is given a desk job that Bharti was vying for, it leads to an uneasy start to the relationship. Eventually their hesitant friendship progresses to a deeper bond. Bharti realizes that being a woman, Dalit and gay makes her that much more disadvantaged in society. But she’s brave enough to own her truth. And she has no patience for those who are running away from theirs. A spectacular performance by Konkona Sen Sharma and Neeraj Ghaywan’s (Masaan) adept storytelling with hidden layers, makes this the standout film of the anthology.

Ankahi

This story is debut director Kayoze Irani’s sublime take on relationships, exploring how old connections fall apart and new ones are built unexpectedly. Natasha (Shefali Shah) is trying to keep it all together—dealing with her daughter going deaf, learning the sign language, and urging her unyielding husband to do the same.

Amidst her domestic crisis, she meets a photographer (Manav Kaul) who shares her daughter’s hearing disability, and is immediately drawn to him. Already proficient in the sign language, she has no trouble communicating with this man who believes that spoken words can lie but the eyes never do. The bond grows deeper with every meeting and their conversations are peppered with humour and heart. The sensitively told story and masterful performances by Shefali Shah and Manav Kaul make this film an absolute treat!

While all four stories have an interesting premise, Geeli Pucchi and Ankahi go beyond and get the viewer far more emotionally invested. 

 

Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2

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