The new Netflix original film Ajeeb Daastaans is a package of saddening or shocking stories. The movies focus on a variety of themes like revenge, class, caste, and true love. Barring Shashank Khaitan’s Majnu, I found all the other films in the movie compelling. Neeraj Ghaywan’s Geeli Pucchi and Kayoze Irani’s Ankahi were the most favorite ones for me in the lot, with the latter having a more profound impact.
Majnu by Shashank Khaitan is easily the lightest and most uncomplicated film in the group. The film that starts in a Saahib Biwi Aur Gangster texture follows that mood for most of its runtime. Towards the end, when it takes a detour from the familiar path, you sense a kind of boldness from the filmmaker. But Khaitan seems to be interested in keeping the movie in a morally black and white space and thus goes for one more twist that sort of takes away the charm it got by talking about a sensitive topic. Jaideep Ahlawat portrayed the insecurities of Babloo neatly. Fatima Sana Shaikh was convincing as the determined leading lady. Armaan Ralhan has the looks to be the character, but there isn’t enough space here to perform as the character is pretty flat.
Khilauna by Raj Mehta has a very typical and glossy feel for a large part. The film is ultimately about the response of the oppressed against exploitation. The account the makers give us about the lives of these oppressed is real but has its limitations in conveying its depth. The shocking revelation at the end of the movie is too abrupt. Ludo fame Inayat Verma as Binny is given this character of a small girl, which I felt needed a responsible portrayal. It had a certain level of cunningness, and the little one performed it excellently. Nushrratt Bharuccha as Meenal as a maid is too “Dharma” in my opinion, and I am not trying to say that a segment of the society can’t look beautiful on screen. Looking beautiful and looking authentic are two different things when you look at the nature of their storytelling. Abhishek Banerjee did his part very neatly as the angry and oppressed love interest of Bharuccha’s character.
Neeraj Ghaywan’s Geeli Pucchi is a very unique and layered revenge story. SPOILER ALERT! The film addresses two issues; the lack of understanding of the society about same-sex relationships and how caste plays a role in acceptance. The film is about the special bond between Bharti Mandal and Priya Sharma. There is a space in the movie where motherhood is presented as a solution to a particular problem. The placing of that idea is so problematic at first. You might even feel it as a highly regressive stand. But slowly, when the intent and the reason for that advice play out in the movie, you can see a different layer to it.
The movie has wonderful frames, and the star performer here was Konkona Sen Sharma. She gets into the skin of Bharti Mandal in an extremely believable way. Bharti is very tough on the outside, and she works with men who don’t respect her. The hope and despair of that character were performed with minimalism and precision.
Ankahi by Kayoze Irani was my personal favorite among all the films. In terms of visual texture, it was on the rich side. But the movie has got a big heart which makes it extremely appealing. The dilemma is the one thing that breaks your heart in the end. And Kayoze etches out the characters so gently that you strongly empathize with the central characters within a small span of time. The best part of the movie is the crackling chemistry between Manav Kaul and Shefali Shah. The sign-language communication between the two is adorable and brings a significant amount of emotional warmth.
Through minimal conversations between characters, Kayoze gives us many details about all the four characters in the film. And that eventually breaks our heart as we also feel that helplessness through which Shefali Shah’s character goes through. Manav Kaul was simply brilliant in his portrayal of the male protagonist.
For me, the order of these Ajeeb Daastaans felt like an arrangement in which the quality of movies increased one after the other. Even the arguably silliest one from Shashank Khaitan has an engaging feel to it. With almost every story having different kinds of tragedies, this one can’t be a mood booster for sure. But if watching the grey reality excites you, do watch this one.
With almost every story having different kinds of tragedies, this one can't be a mood booster for sure. But if watching the grey reality excites you, do watch this one.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended