‘Lust Stories 2’ review: More sordid than sensuous
(Credit: Netflix)

Film Reviews

‘Lust Stories 2’ review: More sordid than sensuous

'Lust Stories 2' - Konkona Sen Sharma

One obvious revelation after watching the latest Netflix offering, Lust Stories 2 is that Neena Gupta will always be a delight to watch. No matter her role, she makes it her own and breathes life into it like no other. That is one rule that cannot be messed with—whether she plays a middle-aged woman who gets pregnant, much to the chagrin of her grown sons, or a hardcore meditating granny with frayed grey hair.

This granny is the highlight of the show. With an adventurous past dotted with sexual experimentation with the love of her life, this daadi is one for the ages.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Lust Stories, the four directors, R. Balki, Konkona Sen Sharma, Sujoy Ghosh, and Amit Ravindernath Sharma, take viewers on a journey into the complexities of desire. However, while the original anthology hit the mark with its explorations of love and libido, Lust Stories 2 falls short, with a collection of stories that are more sordid than sensuous.

R. Balki kicks off the anthology with a tale of a would-be mother-in-law educating her daughter-in-law—played by a giggly and effervescent Mrunal Thakur—about the importance of not merely being there to serve her son, played by Angad Bedi, who acts as the perfect non-toxic nice guy.

The story takes an unexpected turn when the grandmother poses a provocative question about the couple’s sexual activities. Showcasing a refreshing portrayal of an older woman unapologetically embracing her desires, Neena Gupta’s daadi encourages her granddaughter to take her beau on a “test drive” before tying the knot. 

Balki skillfully highlights the lack of space desi couples from different generations have had to deal with. The urban, affluent crowd can rent fancy hotel rooms by the hour. But the older generation, as many middle-class and poor folks today, have had to rely on the darkness of movie theatres, secluded riversides, isolated fields, and sometimes even abandoned, makeshift hovels as clandestine meeting spots. There is a thrill to the illicit nature of these spaces even now.

Who knew watching a grandmother and her granddaughter discuss orgasms (codeword: Mt. Fuji) would be so cathartic? Balki did, and so he crafted the most winsome, albeit PG13, short story with a lot of nuanced responsibility. At one point, daadi breaks the fourth wall and looks directly at us to say, “Sex is important for love,” and she wants every generation to hear and understand her.

But this daadi is no sex-crazed old dummy. She knows good sex isn’t the end-all and be-all of a good relationship but a form of intimacy that can keep the playfulness and spark alive in the long run. Passion is the fuel of life, but so is communication and honesty.

Balki gets a cookie for delivering the perfect bite-sized modern love story involving generations of Indian women.

After the deliciously dark short Geeli Pucchi (Wet Kiss by Neeraj Ghaywan) from the Ajeeb Daastaans (Strange Stories) series, Konkona Sen Sharma is back, this time in the director’s chair, with another unconventional tale with a twisted happy-ish ending.

This one takes the friction caused by lack of space and what it does to couples starved for intimacy and throws us into a world of voyeurs and exhibitionists. Sen Sharma’s short gets necessarily weird with its examination of boundary-pushing sexual overtures, blurring lines of professional ethics, unequal power dynamics, and consent.

Tillotama Shome and Amruta Subhash play off each other well. Shrikant Yadav’s casting is very apt here as well.

With sweat and spit and other bodily fluids oozing, this short drives in the point that sex can be strange and messy, especially when it steps out of the confines of straight-laced monogamous heteronormativity. It no longer remains palatable or clean. But doesn’t get too deep into the consequences of it.

This one will make you uncomfortable but also hot and bothered. You can’t yuck someone’s yum—no kink-shaming in this house.

Sujoy Ghosh’s entry leaves too much to be desired. The odd lighting and distracting CGI backgrounds may serve a purpose, but it is executed poorly. Vijay Varma’s Vijay Chauhan is yet another creep. The man has mastered the act at this point after Darlings and Dahaad. But this short, isn’t it.

The sexualisation of Shanti (Tamannaah Bhatia) for the male gaze is unnecessary and disconcerting, and not for the intended reasons. Ghosh’s narrative lacks coherence and also includes the worst sex scene ever.

It is very hastily written and directed. You know the feeling when you are writing the final essay on your exam, but suddenly you realise time is running out, and you rush to finish? So the first paragraph ends up reading like Shakespeare and the last one is like a muddled WhatsApp forward. This script is the last paragraph of that essay with a bizarre obsession with big breasts thrown in.

At least, Ghosh’s bit will have some people lusting, no matter how unfeminist that might be of them. But the last short completely lost me.

Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s short confuses misogyny, abuse, and even ambition for lust. With the moth-eaten version of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s aesthetics in tow, this tale of lecherous but penniless royals begins and ends with violence. While Kumud Mishra does a great job making your skin crawl even more than the cockroaches and rotting grub, Kajol’s casting feels out of place. Her perfectly straightened hair and chiffon sarees do not help her case either.

Sharma’s short has too many logical loopholes and left me with that many stupid questions before I realised there is just one important one to be asked here, “Where’s the lust in this?”