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4 shades of lust! 2 hit your senses, 2 feel like premature ejaculation! – Beyond Bollywood

Kajol picks a fine story in her second innings. Tillotama Shome and Amruta Subhash ace their intriguing characters, but Tamannaah Bhatia and Vijay Varma come a cropper.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️ (2 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

For an audience that is generally uncomfortable with the idea of sex on screen, Lust Stories [2018], the Netflix anthology film proved that to be partially incorrect. Not that the film’s creators pushed the envelope much, but the lust in the title was perhaps enough to encourage private viewing. We presume the largely favorable views were borne out of that individual viewing. Barring the Dibakar Banerjee-directed story, starring Manisha Koirala-Sanjay Kapoor and Jaideep Ahlawat, the other three tales in the anthology lived up to the standard definition of lust.

Near five years later, producers Ronnie Screwvala and Ashi Dua are back with Lust Stories 2.  Three of these four stories depict new shades to lust. R. Balki, Konkana Sen Sharma, Sujoy Ghosh and Amit Ravindernath Sharma join the franchise as directors.

Segment 1 – R. Balki

The first lusty tale is by R. Balki. If not controversial, this one is surely disruptive. Veda [Mrunal Thakur] and Arjun [Angad Bedi] are set for an arranged marriage. Their respective fathers have been thick pals for years, and are now turning that friendship into relationship. It’s a typical traditional meet-the-parents moment until the grandmother [played by Neena Gupta] drops a bomb.

“What about sex? Have you guys had sex?” dadi [grandmother] tells unflinchingly in front of her son, daughter-in-law (played by Kanupriya Pandit), Veda, Arjun and his parents. The young couple is controlling their amusement. Their respective parents, however, are stunned beyond belief. Dadi, though, wouldn’t stop. “If there is no good sex life, then no marriage would last,” the old lady proclaims.

Everyone is astonished in the room. If one is watching these scenes on TV with your family in tow, most faces are likely to have the same expression as that of Veda and Arjun’s parents. Few days later, our disruptive dadi indulges into more such talk with the groom and the bride to be. This time a volcanic eruption in Mount Fuji serves as an analogy. Veda is feeling uneasy. The viewer, too, is wondering, “Hey dadi, where is all this cum-ing from?” Pun intended. Both Veda and Arjun eventually get the message. Soon, the young couple have ‘safe’ sex in a five-star hotel. That is the start of more such nights.

All this while, we hear a few chuckling voices in the hall but our mind is puzzled as to what is Balki trying to say here? Is pre-martial safe sex a parameter for a blissful married life? This reviewer is no virgin, but a bachelor still. No one should pass any moral judgment on Balki’s celluloid dadi. Usually, it is perceived that the youth is more open about sex, while the elders in the house lay down the tradition, maryada (limit), and lakshman rekhas (boundaries).  Balki turns the whole social taboo on its head. Your humble, clueless, middle-class bachelor reviewer is still wondering – is pre-martial safe sex a parameter for a blissful married life? 

There is no harm in having sex. Marriage is simply a ritual. It doesn’t change the way humans make love or reproduce. But to suggest that pre-martial sex is vital to a successful marriage is perhaps way off the mark. A couple has good sex, but what if few days/weeks before the marriage, the couple has a fallout and the marriage is called off? Dear dadi, do you have an answer to that?

Neena Gupta’s own personal story counters that bizarre Balki narrative. The late bloomer was once in a relationship with former West Indies cricketer Sir Issac Vivian Richards. The couple never married but Gupta would go on to raise a child as a single parent. Presumably, the good sex here didn’t translate into marriage. One, however, has to admire Gupta’s nonchalance during the celluloid sex commentary.

We recently heard Manoj Munstashir defend the crass dialogues in Adipursh [2023] by describing it as a tone in which nannies/grannies told Ramayan in his home town. We found that bizarre but is R.Balki’s dadi also from the same town? Given its shock value, Netflix shouldn’t have picked this story to open Lust Stories 2.

Segment 2- Konkana Sen Sharma

This one is voyeuristic to begin with, but with every sexual act, you are intrigued by the psyche of the two female protagonists. A corporate spinster [played by Tillotama Shome] is stunned to find her trusted housemaid Seema [Amruta Subhash] make love on her comfy bed.  She is too shocked, gently walks out of her house, informs her close pal [perhaps Konkana Sen Sharma] over the phone. 

The spinster chooses to ignore it, but catches Seema in the act for successive days. Shome would secretly watch Seema and her husband have sex, and get aroused by it. After few days, Seema senses that voyeurism, but continues with her pleasurable act in her employer’s pad. Eventually, Seema and her employer confront each other. After the two-way mudslinging, Shome fires Seema.

Seema is poor. Shome’s spinster is rich. The latter though is poor in her social skills with no-sex life. Once she senses Shome’s voyeurism, Seema is deliberately increasingly the intensity of her intercourse. Clearly, there’s a sense of pride to Seema’s lust, which becomes Shome’s envy. Money or sex? Who is the real dhanwan (wealthy) here?

There is one sex scene too many as Konkana Sen’s Sharma lust story begins to get a little uncomfortable for some. Here’s a story that is likely to evoke mixed views but very few will dispute the stellar acts by Shome, Subhash. The cinematography especially the aesthetically shot intimate scenes are a real stand out.

Segment 3 – Sujoy Ghosh

Arguably, the weakest story/screenplay in this anthology. It stars two actors, who are now said to be dating. Vijay Varma plays a CEO who is having a lusty video conversation with his voluptuous paramour whilst driving. His wife Anu dials him to inform about an urgent meeting that the group chairman, her father, has called for at short notice. Varma returns to his paramour’s video call. He is distracted by her cleavage, averts a collision with a cyclist before ramming his car into a tree on the deserted freeway.

He gets up, totally unscathed, then walks into a nearby large hall, where he spots a sexy lady leading a choir, dancing to a remixed version of Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaye . The popular Kumar Sanu crooned and Rajesh Roshan composed song from Jurm [2005] was heavily inspired by Hedy West’s classic A Hundred Miles.

The lady [played by Tamannaah Bhatia] turns out to be the CEO’s ex-wife, who had vanished ten years ago. The subsequent events are tinged with sex, and a fairly predictable mystery.  The final image adds a spooky layer to this messy saga. The best thing this Sujoy Ghosh-helmed lust story had done is to get Bhatia and Varma close in real life. Or is the public display all part of film PR?  Anyways, the poorly written, directed story results in a below par effort by Varma and Bhatia. This story though harps on the human lust for power, money. Though a disappointing story, the voyeur will enjoy Tamannaah in her maiden on-screen sex act. However, given her image, no-kiss policy down South, this will shock her South Indian fans. Also, after a rare impressive showing in and as Babli Bouncer (2022), will Bollywood audience, too, back Bhatia in this lusty avatar?

Segment 4 – Amit Ravindernath Verma

Just like the first anthology, Netflix has saved the best for the last. Kajol’s presence in Lust Stories 2 divided opinions on the internet. Let’s make it clear. She certainly hasn’t shot those odd sex, rather martial rape scenes. The camera doesn’t even get close to her.

Kajol plays the submissive wife to a lusty, evil failed royal in Bijokpur Rajwada (perhaps a pseudonym for Bijapur, Rajasthan). She was once a sex worker before the failed royal [Kumud Mishra] married her and brought her to his ancestral palace. The lusty hukum (owner), though hasn’t stopped philandering. He exploits his maid Bitari before the latter is dismissed by Kajol. It’s a fractured relationship, and one beyond repair. All the wife seeks is for her son to get education in London. She, too, sees this is an opportunity to end her misery.

Randi ke beta raja banega,” (This prostitute’s son will become a king one day). Poor Kajol has waited long to live this dream, but destiny dealts her a cruel blow. 

Of the all stories, it’s Amit Sharma’s narrative that has the most unique shade of lust. Kajol can’t do anything about her husband, but here the lust is planted as an act of revenge/escape. The poignant tale is hard hitting and the most refreshing lust story in this anthology. Kajol doesn’t have the Marwari accent, but she does well to reflect the internal turmoil of her character.

Do we even need to mention Kumud Mishra? Jeez, just couple of weeks ago, we were mesmerized by his humanity as the blind, benevolent man Sudhir in Nazar Andaaz.  Here, he is evil personified. Mishra easily slips into the debauchery of his character. More than his sexual-depravity, one feels despicable at the manner in which he urinates in the open field. Mishra’s master evil act is unmatched in the entire anthology.

Meanwhile, the young actor, who played Kajol’s new maid is also impressive.

Final overall critical analysis

As a whole, Lust Stories 2 impressed us in parts as only Amit Sharma and Konkana Sen Sharma’s stories have some substance to them. The 2018 film came in the infancy of OTT networks in India. The title naturally aroused the viewer’s curiosity then. We saw an all-new irresistible seductive side to Bhumi Pednekar then. Jeez, that brief but passionate love-making scene became the stuff of nightfall. Pardon, if this reviewer is getting a bit too personal but what good is Lust Stories if it didn’t arouse our lusty senses?  Then there was Kiara Advani’s vibrating act in the Karan Johar-helmed story. The men found it hilarious Maybe, it triggered nocturnal emission among female audiences. Lust Stories [2018] perhaps had more sexually attractive artistes, but the second film in the franchise has stronger, intense actors.

Lust Stories 2, though, comes at a time when there is a strong discussion on regulation, censoring of OTT content. Have OTT makers pushed the envelope far too much? That boils down to individual perception. But when a porn film is available on mere Google search, and free of cost, do these Lust Stories arouse the same interest? It’s been a poor phase for Hindi films in the last few years. Add to it the obnoxious #BoycottBollywood brigade, who will shout, “Bollywood cannot think above its pants”.

It is a brave move to have a Lust Stories 2 but credit to Netflix, show creators to move from the conventional lust form, and explore it in a more meaningful context. Balki and Sujoy Ghosh’s stories disappointed us.  It’s the two Sharmas [Konkana, Amit] who bring some respectability to Lust Stories 2.

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