Star Cast: Fatima Sana Shaikh, Jaideep Ahlawat, Armaan Ralhaan, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Abhishek Banerjee, Inayat Verma, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aditi Rao Hydari, Manav Kaul, Shefali Shah
Directors: Shashank Khaitan, Raj Mehta, Neeraj Ghaywan, Kayoze Irani
Available on: Netflix
Runtime: 2 hours 22 minutes
"It's always the little things that matter, not the big promises. What's important is that people understand each other." Maybe, that's one of the reasons why Neeraj Ghaywan's Geeli Pucchi and Kayoze Irani's Ankahi are the two stories which stand out in Karan Johar's latest Netflix anthology Ajeeb Daastaans.
After the critically acclaimed Lust Stories and the drab Ghost Stories, Karan Johar once again brings four diverse filmmakers under one roof to offer us a bunch of short stories, which explore the different facets of human emotions simmering under fractured relationships.
Read on to know what each of the stories have in store for us.
Ajeeb Daastaans begins with Shashank Khaitan's Majnu. Babloo (Jaideep Ahlawat) is an influential local kingpin who is stuck in a loveless marriage with Lipakshi (Fatima Sana Shaikh). Unknown to Lipakshi, Babloo harbours a dark secret while his wife tries to deal with her loneliness with a slew of affairs. Enters London-returned Raj Kumar (Armaan Ralhan), son of the family's driver. What follows next is a bunch of revelations on the theme of sexuality, revenge and deceit.
Fatima Sana Shaikh has a magnetic screen presence but the actress does stumble a bit when it comes to playing a seductress. Jaideep Ahlawat delivers a reliable act. Armaan Ralhan is convincing as Raj Kumar, the man who brings in a twist in the tale.
Director Shashank Khaitan has an engaging plot in his hand. However, the filmmaker struggles to add some nuances to his storytelling to make it more appealing to the audience. Also, the inconsistent screenplay sticks out like a sore thumb.
Raj Mehta of Good Newwz fame offers the audience a sly pro-capitalism drama in which a street smart house-help Meenal (Nushrratt Bharuccha) and her precious kid sister Binny (Inayat Verma) try to bridge the gap between the haves and the not-haves; unaware of the exploitation and horrors that come along.
Nushrratt Bharuccha springs a surprise with her portrayal of a naive, confident women. Inayat Verma (who was charming in Anurag Basu's Ludo) woos you this time with a chilling performance. Abhishek Banerjee is top-notch as the neighbourhood laundry man Sushil.
Filmmaker Raj Mehta tries to throw light on the dynamics of the class divide and also pulls the rug off your feet with a 'chilling' twist. However, this segment falters in terms of writing, which looks a little weak at places.
Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan's Geeli Puchhi is the best one in the whole lot. The film revolves around Bharati (Konkona Sen Sharma), a Dalit factory worker who has her eyes set on the data operator's job. To her shock, the post is offered to an upper-class newly married woman Priya (Aditi Rao Hydari). Initially peeved, Bharti eventually befriends the new recruit and strikes an unexpected friendship with her. However, their forbidden bonding comes with its share of heartbreaks and deception.
The ever-reliable Konkona Sen Sharma proves once again why she is one of the finest talents in our country. Lending her ample support is Aditi Rao Hydari, who is radiant in each and every frame.
Neeraj Ghaywan's Geeli Pucchi overpowers rest of the films in the anthology when it comes to getting its plot and emotions bang on. Within a limited time, the director succeeds in packing a series of themes like homophobia, class and caste divide in his narrative that leaves you thinking for a long time.
Lastly, Kayoze Irani's Ankahi tells the story of unhappily married mother Natasha (Shefali Shah), whose daughter is slowly losing her sense of hearing. While Natasha is quick to adapt to sign language, her hubby (played by Toto Roy Chaudhary) seems a bit disinterested. When Natasha bumps into a deaf-and-mute photographer Rohan (Manav Kaul) at an art gallery, the former chooses to seek a companion in him. But then, 'Do eyes never really lie?"
Manav Kaul is a treat to watch in Ankahi and his sign language scenes leave you with a wide grin on your face. Minus any dialogues, the man churns a delightful performance that's hard to resist. Shefali Shah's commendable act is also one of the reasons why Ankahi strikes a chord.
Director Kayoze Irani portrays marital rifts with empathy and proves that sometimes love needs no language. Right from suppressed emotions to emotional outbursts, the filmmaker taps in every area to give you a heart-touching watch.
Jishnu Bhattacharjee, Pushkar Singh and Siddharth Vasani's camera work captures the vivid moods of Ajeeb Daastaans in an effective way. Nitin Baid's sharp editing keeps you hooked to the screen.
Karan Johar redeems his previous failure Ghost Stories with an engaging take on complex human relationships in the form of Ajeeb Daastaans. Despite the bumps at a few places, the Netflix anthology still makes for a compelling watch. Neeraj Ghaywan's Geeli Puchhi and Kayoze Irani's Ankahi are our picks from the lot.
We give 3 stars out of 5 to Karan Johar's Netflix anthology film Ajeeb Daastaans.