Combust Stories #NotAMovieReview

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A friend and I recently watched 'Lust Stories' together and we were going "What the F*ck" every alternate minute. Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar come together after the mind-numbing 'Bombay Talkies' to create another anthology that highlights lust! Okay, if it was not clear already, it focuses only on the female side of the story. The idea was to talk about how the sexual desires of women are important too and a woman should do everything that she can to feel, err, satisfied. It is a nice thought, no doubt. About time people recognize women as equals in every sphere of life, not only sexuality. What bothers me, however, is that every time a movie is made on independent women or the concept of feminism, it always revolves only around sex. There is so much more to a woman than her desires and sexuality. I agree sex is really vital for both men and women, but one cannot be defined just by their sexuality. What about humanity then?

Just like its predecessor, 'Lust Stories' has four stories each directed by brilliant directors. Every story has a woman at the center and talks about her sex life. Unabashedly. While you think that it is about time a movie is made on this bold subject, the execution is so poor that the lust soon turns combust! And without any fire, mind you! One would think that when you get a bunch of excellent actors and good directors together, the result would be something fabulous. Sadly, this one was nothing but damp squib.

Since the directors were busy with their new movies, they turned down my offer for a chat. I did manage to get the female lead actors from the movie though. Strangely, they did not want to appear together, almost answering KJo's favorite Koffee With Karan question, "Can two actresses ever be friends?" I spent a lot of time figuring out the dates when they were free and when I was free. I did not want to give more than a day for this.


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Finally, everything fell into the picture well and on one fateful day Radhika Apte walks in first for the chat.

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Story 1 Blurb: In the story directed by Anurag Kashyap, Radhika Apte plays Kalindi a teacher who is married to someone 12 years her senior and ends up having an affair with her student. She also sleeps with the math teacher and discusses this with the aforementioned student. And why does she do this? No, not to explore lust, but because her long-distant husband has given her the freedom to live her life her own way and she chooses to sleep with other men to cater to her self confessed selfishness.

Radhika: Oh hello! You must be Soumya.

I: Oh yes! Nice to meet you.

Radhika: Nice to meet you too. You are from Netflix right?

I: Nope, I'm just an independent blogger.

Radhika: Eyy are you sure? Didn't you say you were from Netflix and wanted me for a few shows?

I: No, I said I watched your movie on Netflix and wanted to talk to you about it.

Radhika: Oh! the minute I hear Netflix I think about shows. I have been a part of some of them.

I: Some?

Radhika: Haan yaar. Just four or five na.

I: Isn't that enough. Plus you featured in a movie also.

Radhika: Oh yes, lust was a must!

I: What made you do this movie?

Radhika: Anurag, what else?

I: You always pick sensible scripts and movies. Why did you pick the role of a deranged woman?

Radhika: Deranged? Nonsense. Kalindi was a passionate woman.

I: Really? The story was about passion?

Radhika: Are you stupid? The movie was called 'Lust Stories' for a reason. It was about Kalindi's lust for her husband.

I: But she slept around with two other men who were not her husband.

Radhika: You did not get the story looks like. See, Kalindi is in a long distance relationship with her husband. He has given her the freedom to live her life and she chooses to live it selfishly. After having slept with someone who is so older to her, she wanted to see how it feels to sleep with someone younger to her. A one night stand helped her with it.

I: One night stand? Didn't she go all crazy after that and stalk the shit outa that kid.

Radhika: It was all about lust yaar, nothing else.

I: Then why did she trouble him so much and land everywhere he did with his girlfriend? She even went to his house looking for to see of there is a woman's underwear there.

Radhika (proudly): That scene was shot in just one take.

I: Thank God!

Radhika: When the husband gave her freedom to do anything, she can do anything na? That's what feminism is all about.

I: No, feminism is about not wanting someone to "give" you freedom.

Radhika: Arey, what is this yaar! You have got it all wrong.

I (ignoring): What about that math teacher then? The man who wanted to have coitus with Kalinidi only with the lights turned off!

Radhika: That was all about lust.

I: Kalindi lusted after someone who used the word "coitus"?

Radhika: Everything is fair in lust and Netflix, you should know that by now.

I: So you think that infidelity is fine when it comes to women?

Radhika: Haan, she should have the freedom to do what she wants. Because, feminism.

I (angrily): For God's sake, why should she get married then? If she wants to be free to sleep with other men?

Radhika: That's her choice na? If she was given the freedom to..........

I: Wait, was this movie about freedom, feminism or lust?

Radhika (thrilled): I know, I know! All of the above.

I: Thank you, Radhika, we are done here.

Radhika: Arey, we still have time na. There is so much more to talk about Kalindi.

I: I'm sure there is, but I see Bhumi walking in and I would not want her to wait.

Radhika: Ah Pednekar is here! I like her a lot, what a brilliant actress!

I: Great, you can do the interview together then.

Radhika: Actually, I have another appointment. Is there is a back exit to this place? Ah there I see it, okay bye!

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Bhumi Pednekar walks in with a bright smile and gives me a hug! There is something so warm about her that I almost feel angry that Zoya Akhtar cast her in such a meaningless role.

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Story 2 Blurb: Zoya Akhtar shows Bhumi as Sudha, a maid working in the house of Ajit, played by Neil Bhoopalam. She sleeps with her boss as regularly as she scrubs his toilet or makes poha for him. One day his family visits and then another family visits with a young girl as a prospective bride for Ajit. Sudha makes tea and snacks for the said meeting which results in a happy ending! I mean the wedding is confirmed. Sudha collects her share of the sweets and leaves, silently.

Bhumi: Hello! How are you? You look so pretty!

I: Thank you, you are so kind!

Bhumi: I am what I am.

I: Let's start with your role on Netlix's 'Lust Stories'. You play Sudha, a maid who.....

Bhumi: Oh yes! I trained so much for the part! Actually I was surprised that Zoya chose me for this role, but I was willing to go the long run for it. After all I gained so much weight for my first movie, this was only about learning how to keep the house clean.

I: Nice, but didn't you.......

Bhumi: Zoya is such a brilliant director! I'm so glad that I got to work with her even when I did not come from a filmy background. I'm so blessed to have worked with such good actors and directors even when I am an outsider.

I: Yes, I get that. But......

Bhumi: Working in a movie where the sole focus was on me was such a thrilling experience. No offense to Neil though, but usko kaun dekhta hai?

I: What do you mean?

Bhumi: The movie was focused on the lust of women! The men in the movie were to be ignored. We wanted to show pure feminism.

I: No, not again!

Bhumi: Then what? It was all about how women can have desires too.

I: I get that. But didn't Sudha feel used? Her boss sleeps with her as and when he wants and conveniently ignores her when his family visits.

Bhumi: No! Not at all. Arey if he used her, she also used him na.

I (impressed): Wow, now that's a good take!

Bhumi: Plus, now that he was marrying someone of his own strata, it doesn't mean that he will stop sleeping with Sudha na. He might when his wife is not around.

I: And will Sudha be okay with that?

Bhumi: Why not?

I: There is another woman involved now. How can Sudha do that to her?

Bhumi: The story is about her lust. She can do anything for that. As I said, women can do what they want to do....

I: Ah let me guess, because of pure feminism.

Bhumi: Aich! You are so right!

I: Didn't Sudha want to marry Ajit?

Bhumi: She did, that's why she was upset.

I: Couldn't she talk to him about it? Like what's he's doing and all that?

Bhumi: I was not allowed to talk in the movie. Zoya was very clear about that.

I: Why?

Bhumi: I'm a directors actor, I didn't ask. I'm just lucky to have worked with some of the best directors so early in my carrier. In spite of not having a Godfather in the industry, people accepted me and.............

I: I think we're done here Bhumi.

Bhumi: Is the interview over? I had a good time, thanks!

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She gives me a hug and bids goodbye and walks out gracefully. Such a nice woman and a wonderful actress ! I can't believe she was brainwashed into doing this..... Before I could complete my thoughts, I saw Manisha Koirala walking in! I have always been a fan of her and loved her work in 'Khamoshi' and 'Akele Hum Akele Tum'. She has always picked strong roles and I was surprised when I saw her in 'Lust Stories'!

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Story 3 Blurb: Dibakar Banerjee's story shows Manisha as Reena, a stay at home mother who quit her job to take care of the kids, who is having an affair with her husband's best friend, Sudhir.

I: Hello Manisha, I'm a big fan!

Manisha: I'm sure you are, thanks!

I: You battled cancer and came back, huge respect!

Manisha: It wasn't easy, but I did it. I'm glad.

I: Why did you do 'Lust Stories' though? 'Sanju' I understand, but why this?

Manisha: Let me be honest with you. Cancer ruins a woman's body and makes her question herself. Reena's role gave me validation, that I was desirable and sexy even after having two children.

I: Feeling sexy is one thing, cheating on your husband is another.

Manisha: See, Reena was in a unhappy marriage. She did what she had to.

I: She could have ended the marriage and done what she has to, right?

Manisha: What are you saying? How could she break a family? Plus, what was she? She was nothing without her husband. She gave it all up to have a family. Where would she go if she left him?

I: To the man she was having an affair with.

Manisha: That was her husband's best friend, yaar! How could she ruin a friendship?

I: But, Reena does confess to her husband about the affair. The friendship is already ruined.

Manisha: Not at all. Remember that her husband tells Reena to not tell Sudhir that he knows about the affair. He also invited him to play a game of golf, remember?

I: So it was all "They don't know that we know they know we know"?

Manisha (confused): What the hell?

I: Ah, sorry! Not a F.R.I.E.N.D.S fan I see. Anyway, moving on...

Manisha: See, I know that this an unconventional role for me. But the character reminded me of my cancer days. It was a disease that I had to fight! Reena was in a unhappy marriage and she had to do everything she could to feel desired and wanted.

I: Shouldn't she talk to her husband about that?

Manisha: How would there be a story then?

I: Ah, there you said it!

Manisha: A unhappy woman makes for a solid story, don't you think?

I: I think that the idea was to focus on lust, but failed miserably.

Manisha: No, story was about a woman's role in a marriage and how sacred it it.

I: Are we even talking about the same movie?

Manisha: Just because you did not get it, doesn't mean it is wrong! Are we done here?

I: But, Reena was having an affair with her husband's best friend for three years. She ignored her husband and her children to get away with her lover. When her husband was willing to make things work, she confessed to him about the affair like it was the most causal thing on earth. Worse, the husband reacted to it like it was the most casual thing on earth and they end up having sex. Next, the husband forgives her and they continue with their lives like nothing has happened. Couldn't all of this have been avoided if she had just had a conversation with him in the first place?

Manisha: What about the lust?

I (irritated): Arey, what lust?

Manisha: The lust Reena wanted others to feel for her?

I: I thought Reena wanted to feel validated and important.

Manisha: Lust is important too.

I: Okay, this is not working out. I think we're done here.

Manisha: I think so too. See ya!

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Just as I was collecting my thoughts about what just happened, I see Neha Dhupia come in. I thought Kiara was coming and had prepared the questions for her.

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Story 4 Blurb: Karan Johar shows his current favorite Kiara Advani as Megha, a teacher who has an arranged marriage to Paras, played brilliantly by Vicky Kaushal. Unfortunately for Megha, Paras doesn't last more than five seconds in bed and lasts less than five seconds on Sundays, because, well, it is a Sunday! When Megha sees a fellow teacher Rekha, played by Neha Dhupia, use a vibrator to pleasure herself in the library, she decides to try that too. In an unfortunate turn of events, Megha has her first climax after marriage in front of the whole family after which her mother-in-law promptly asks her son to leave her.

Neha: Are you Soumya?

I: Yes.

Neha: Hello Soumya, Welcome to Roadies fifteen.

I: Sorry?

Neha: No, I'm sorry. I'm so used to saying that line everyday now.

I: Never mind, isn't Kiara coming?

Neha: Why would she?

I: I asked for the leads form each story.

Neha: Yes, I know. That's why I'm here!

I: But....

Neha: Hey, let's just get on. I don't have all day.

I: Okay, so the story.

Neha: You liked it?

I: Not exactly. But compared to the other stories, this was the closest to the so called theme.

Neha: I thought it was brilliant! Every woman needs to feel satisfied.

I: Totally agree!

Neha: With or without a man.

I: I do agree, but isn't it better to have an open conversation with the man instead? Especially if it is the husband?

Neha: Who does that in India? I can't believe that you are so naive? A woman talking about sex is a taboo darling!

I: And a woman using a vibrator is not?

Neha: Okay, I see what you do there. I'll let Karan answer that for you. Later.

I: You say in the movie that a woman should be responsible for her own pleasures. You believe that?

Neha: Absolutely. A woman can do everything she wants.

I: That's not what I'm asking.

Neha: Let me finish. Absolutely. A woman can do everything she wants. If a man can't give her something, she has all the right to seek it herself.

I: Agreed. But, orgasms included?

Neha: Especially orgasms.

I: What about open honest conversations with the partner?

Neha: Doesn't always work.

I: Megha never tried.

Neha: But Rekha did.

I: That wasn't shown in the movie.

Neha: I knew that would backfire. I told Karan to make it my story, but he didn't! He wanted his new favorite to get all the focus!

I: Come on, let's not make it about this now.

Neha: Yeah, let's move on!

I: So, you think that the title 'Lust Stories' justifies the anthology.

Neha: Not exactly, but what else could you have called it?

I: 'Don't talk to your partner' stories?

Neha: Hahahhahaahaha.

I: Good na?

Neha: Really good. Now that I think about it, you are right! And I'm glad I only had a tiny role in it.

I: But didn't you just call yourself the lead.

Neha: Let me ask Kiara to come answer your questions. Karan hasn't trained her enough yet, this could be fun.

I: No, thank you! I don't want any more reminders about this movie!

Neha: Nor do I! Bye bye.

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Having said everything that I said here, I'd still say that 'Lust Stories' is a nice concept on paper. Had it been executed right, it might have been something good. For example, if it was about a teacher lusting for her younger student and clearly keeping it sexual or just fantasizing about him without any strings attached, it would have made sense. Lust is a very interesting sin. Enough tales and poetry has been written about it.

But, these stories, are terribly dysfunctional.

10 comments:

  1. This a brilliant post, Soumya! The interviews seem so realistic and fun :D
    I quite liked this women-oriented anthology movie as it talked about an important aspect of their desires and lust. All the stories are pretty layered and brings to fore many other aspects like societal norms, taboos etc. Bhumi's story was my favorite of the lot.

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    1. Thank you, Shilpa.

      Like I said, the concept sounds good on paper. Had it been executed well, it would have been quite something.

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  2. Haha, and the interviews are back! This is brilliant as always, Soumya. As you said, I liked the concept of Lust stories and the fourth one was the best of the lot, I guess. Except may be KJo's signature elements like "Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham background score", it would have been near perfect! :)

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  3. I love your interviews. 😊 I had mixed feelings about this one when I watched it. Radhika Apte's story was my least favourite one. I think I liked Manisha's tale a bit and KJo's was a nice concept. Overall, yes they missed the mark.

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    1. Thank you, Rachna! Manisha's story was too weird for me, only KJo's story made some sense. They did miss the mark on a pretty good concept.

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  4. Ha ha! These were fun interviews. I haven't watched the show and I won't watch for the exact same reason. These shows are stereotyping women in a stupid way. Have you watched 'four more shots?' These trailers are showing women talking about things like, 'job chodo, beaded necklace becho, chill karo'. Really? Leaving a job not for passion and framing it like this?
    After reading your post, I would not even want to head to Lust Stories.

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    1. I almost puked after watching the trailer of 'Four More Shots'! I couldn't bring myself to watch the show!

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  5. These interviews seem so real, Soumya! I actually imagined you sitting there with those actresses :P
    I did watch these lusty stories, but was not so impressed by any. Okay, they were bold, something quite unlike what we usually see on television, but they did leave me wishing for more substance, you know.

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    1. Hahaha, I hope not! They would all kill me if I was actually there :P

      You said it, sex and lust need substance too ;)

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