Ajeeb Daastaans: An Uneven Anthology Saved By Neeraj Ghaywan And Kayoze Irani

Ajeeb Daastaans has interesting ideas at its core but it could have been far better. Out of the four stories only two stand out. One is Neeraj Ghaywan’s Geeli Pucchi starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Aditi Rao Hydari. In this approximately 40 minutes film the director combines the themes of caste, sexuality and womanhood. Kayoze Irani’s Ankahi on the other hand is a heartwarming story with winning performances from Shefali Shah and Manav Kaul. Below is my brief analysis of the four films.

  1.  Majnu directed by Shashank Khaitan- Majnu revolves around a couple who end up together because of a business alliance and as a result struggle to find happiness. Things take a turn when a third person Raj played by Armaan Ralhan turns up. He turns their life upside down. The biggest issue with this story is Mirzapur hangover. Right from the atmospherics to the dialogues you are heavily reminded of that series. There isn’t much here to appreciate but there are a couple of positives. One of them is the unexpected revelation of Jaideep Ahlawat’s character. It comes in when you are least expecting it. The other positive is the performance of Fatima Sana Sheikh. The actress does a good job. Jaideep Ahlawat on the other hand looks lost which is strange considering how good he was in last year’s Paatal Lok.
  2.  Khilona directed by Raj Mehta – Director Raj Mehta’s Khilauna is an earnest attempt at highlighting the gap between rich and poor. It does succeed in making you uncomfortable but it is not in a good way. Nushrrat Bharuccha and Inayat Verma play sisters who have strong survival instincts. Sushil played by Abhishek Banerjee is a laundry man who loves Nushrrat Bharuccha’s Meenal. When her illegal electricity connection is terminated she decides to use her sexuality. In spite of strong performances by Bharrucha and Inayat Verma this segment suffers because of cramming too many things. Raj Mehta is not able to humanize the character of Meenal. Too much time is spent on her sexuality.
  3.  Geeli Puchhi directed by Neeraj Ghawyan – Geeli Puchhi is easily the best one out of the four. In its crisp run time the director addresses caste, sexuality and womanhood in an impactful way. In fact a whole movie can be created out of this short story and it would make for an interesting film. Konkana Sen Sharma plays a Dalit assembly line worker and Aditi Rao Hydari is the Brahmin data operator who has been given the job that Konkan’s character wanted.

Historical faultiness stand between these two but they have a mutual attraction which draws them together. However the limits of their mutual attraction are revealed in a quiet but devastating manner. There is also a clever node to 36 Chowringhee Lane which was directed by konkana’s mother Aparna Sen.

Konkana delivers a super performance as usual. With her body language she conveys the multiple battlefronts that a woman faces at any given point. Aditi Rao Hydari gives a pleasant surprise as a seemingly immature woman who is a rebel in her own way.

  •  Ankahi directed by Kayoze Irani- Ankahi is a heartwarming story which works more because of the treatment and also the chemistry between Shefali Shah and Manav Kaul. Shefali plays Natasha the mother of a teenager who is slowly losing her hearing. Natasha and her husband Rohan are drifting apart because of the strain. A welcome distraction arrives for Natasha when she meets a deaf photographer Kabir played by Manav Kaul. Kabir touches Natasha’s heart with sign language and oodles of charm.

What keeps this segment afloat is the way the characters of Natasha and Kabir have been written. It also helps that both the actors share a wonderful chemistry. The scenes between them are sure to bring a smile on your face, especially the one filmed in Kabir’s art gallery. While Shefali Shah stands out Manav Kaul also wins hearts with his charming performance.

To sum it up Ajeeb Daastaans is a mixture of good and not so good stories. It is an earnest attempt but it never comes across as a whole.

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