Of love, lust and lies

Netflix’s Ajeeb Dastaans explores class division, homosexuality, patriarchy, casteism – all through the prism of human ties, and love

Two people meet; fall in love and lives happily ever after. Such stories may look good on-screen, engage and entice you – but are often far from reality. In the real world, human relationships are layered – with myriad emotions, societal obligations and so on. Netflix’s new anthology Ajeeb Dastaans perfectly captures these, and more.

Produced by Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment, the anthology contains four stories, directed by Raj Mehta, Neeraj Gheywan, Kayoze Irani and Sashank Khaitan. The film boasts a talented ensemble – Jaideep Ahlawat, Fatima Sana Sheikh, Nusraat Bharucha, Inayat Verma, Abhishek Banerjee, Aditi Rao Hydari, Konkona Sen Sharma, Shefali Shah and Manav Kaul — where each and every actor had slipped into the skin of the character with finesse.

The four tales are not just about relationships. Though, in the beginning it might seem so, but it’s much more than that. They explore class division, homosexuality, patriarchy, and unrequited love – all in various shades of grey. After all, these are what reality is made up of.

The first story, Majnu (directed by Mehta), initially looks like a tale of infidelity. But as the story slowly unveils, we see revenge, lust, homosexuality and such themes being explored. Though, in spite of having all the elements and great actors (Ahlawat and Sheikh) – the tale fails to leave an impact.

Khilauna (by Khaitan), the next tale, might remind you of Parasite at bits and pieces. How a house help, for the sake of survival, manipulates, lies and fakes to win the trust of her employer. But the story, apart from exploring the class division and the struggles of the working class – also has the elements of a crime thriller, and the climax is sure to send you shiver down your spine.

The third story of the anthology, however, hogs all the limelight – and rightly so. Ghaywan, who claimed his fame through Masaan – an exceptional film on class and caste divivsion in our society – has yet again hit the right notes with the same subject. But this time, along with casteism – he also adds homosexuality and patriarchy.

All these themes have been infused in his tale Geeli Poochi, starring Hydari and Sen Sharma, both of whom have done complete justice to their roles. The way he has dealt with this mixed bag of a theme is subtle, and not on your face. It is impactful, it has emotions and yet – in the end it surprises and evens shocks you. It makes you question the frivolous nature of relationships, just what Ajeeb Dastaans’s theme – and it perfectly depicts so.

The last, but not the least, one is Ankahi. Like life, this film too seems like it comes a full circle with this Irani directorial one. It explores a loveless marriage and extra-marital affair too – like the first story, Majnu. But apart from this similarity, both are poles apart.

Ankahi is not a love story, but a story of heartbreak. The tale shows you that love might knock at your door one day, but even if you want to – you might have to just shut it, because the timing might be wrong. Kaul and Shah shines in this breezy romantic tale, but it’s not just about that. It’s also about finding, yet losing, love.

And this makes us wonder, relationships – like shown in the old (And even some new) Bollywood or Hollywood movie – is not just about two people falling in love and fighting for their happy ending. In life, love is not enough. The struggle for survival, the battle to make your life worth living or the duties and responsibilities you are endowed with, be it of a mother or as a son – sometimes these are what the fight is all about.

(Cover image credit – Netflix)

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