Lust Stories On Netflix Explores The Nuances Of Women’s Sexual Satisfaction
On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I tuned in to Netflix to catch its latest original offering Lust Stories. Having watched the earlier edition of shorts Bombay Talkies, and curious to see how the acclaimed directors would give a largely considered forbidden topic a modern interpretation, I looked forward to the viewing with a fair degree of anticipation.
As its moniker indicates, the unifying theme of the four shorts in Lust Storiesis lust in its pure, unadulterated physical form and the film-makers make no apologies for that – and why should they indeed? After an exploration of women’s sexuality in the recent release Veere Di Wedding, it was interesting to see how soon after – perhaps extremely coincidentally – Lust Stories threw the spotlight on that ‘physical’ feeling that for long was hidden under bedcovers and behind closed doors, and discussed if at all in hushed whispers!
Each of the stories deals with lust in its own way – it is prohibited, obsessive, clandestine, unfulfilled, silent and fulfilling. The four stories – which run for about two hours in totality – are an engaging watch as the protagonists play their parts out in real, almost ordinary situations. There is nothing over the top in any of the tales. Given the format of the narratives, each is concise – and makes a point with no frills, fuss or fancy – which makes the watching all the more enjoyable.
The four women who play the leads who embark on a journey replete with sexuality are played with due veracity by Radhika Apte, Bhumi Pednekar, Manisha Koirala and Kiara Advani. Kalindi – Radhika’s screen avatar – grows increasingly neurotic as she begins to stalk one of her students Tejas (assayed by Akshay Thorar who had done a neat turn in Sairat). Under director Anurag Kashyap’s tutelage Radhika brings an edge to her role.
Zoya Akhtar deals with class even as she presents the affair of a middle class man Ajit (Neil Bhoopalam) with his servant (Bhumi). Opening with them having sex in bed, the director, through Sudha’s subsequent silences, showcases her hurt – as her ‘owner’ gets ‘fixed’ in an arranged marriage. Bhumi shows her acting chops in an extremely effective, understated and poignant way.
There is a more mature canvas in Dibakar Banerjee’s short – as he explores extra-marital infidelity. It is a joy to watch (Manisha Koirala) as Reena (the woman) who has an affair with Sudhir (Jaideep Ahlawat) the friend of her husband Salman (Sanjay Kapoor). She is confident, knows what she wants – and plays the situation the way she wants, even when caught in a corner.
And last, but definitely not the least, the story by the master of emotional tales – Karan Johar. Megha (Kiara Advani) gets married to Paras (Vicky Kaushal) and through the nights remains unfulfilled even as her husband races to a climax – to the count of five! Spoiler alert here, but a sex toy is employed with an almost amusing impact in this short story. To say more would dilute the impact of the scene – except that it does doff a hat to Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham!
It is extremely heartening to note that Hindi movies – even though in an extremely short way – are now exploring the nuances of women’s sexual satisfaction. And one cannot but help putting one’s hands together for the four directors who have imaginatively and differently explored the psyches and bodies of their female protagonists. More power to them, and to stories that present women the way they really are – bold, brave and unabashed!