Ajeeb Daastaans review – Engaging anthology

Title: Ajeeb Daastaans
Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Sai Nikhil
Cast: Fatima Sana Shaikh, Jaideep Ahlawat, Arman Ralhan, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Abhishek Banerjee, Inayat Verma, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aditi Rao Hydari, Shefali Shah, Manav Kaul
Director: Shashank Khaitan, Raj Mehta, Neeraj Ghaywan, Kayoze Irani
Streaming on: Netflix
Language: Hindi

Story, Performances and Writing: 

Majnu directed by Shashank Khaitan:

The story is about a forced marriage and the after effects for both the husband and wife. Coming from a director who made fun-filled rom-coms like Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania (2014) and Badrinath ki Dulhania (2017), this film was quite dark and intense. The performances were brilliant from Jaideep Ahlawat, Fatima Sana Shaikh and Armaan Ralhan. The two twists are good. Though they were simple and usual, they arrived unexpectedly without any sign. Overall, this is an engaging segment.

Khilauna directed by Raj Mehta:

This is a story of a domestic worker who is trying all ways to fix the electricity issue in her house. Compared to the first segment, this is more intense and ends with an unexpected shock. Nushrratt Bharuccha is terrific and well supported by Abhishek Banerjee and the young girl Inayat Verma. This segment slightly overpowers the first segment with it’s writing as well as performances.

Geeli Pucchi directed by Neeraj Ghaywan:

This story is about two ladies who are colleagues. One of them belongs to an upper caste and the other to a lower caste. Their relationship dynamics form this story. This story is definitely the pick of the lot in this anthology. It has more depth and relies more on characterisations than twists and performances. The writing is top class and on the face and never subtle. Aditi Rao Hydari and Konkona Sen Sharma are brilliant.

Ankahi directed by Kayoze Irani:

This story is about a husband and wife who are not in harmony and the wife is in search of real love and understanding. This segment feels a bit weak as it arrives after three fairly good ones and has slightly high standards to meet. Manav Kaul and Shefali Shah have delivered decent performances. Usage of sign language for most part was a bit discomforting. There is nothing very impressive but is passable and the ending is good.

Technicalities: Camerawork is good in all segments but stands out in particular for the Majnu and Geeli Pucchi segments. Music score is neat for all segments and so are the dialogues. Dialogues in the Geeli Pucchi segment deserve special mention. Editing is also good. Experimenting with non-linear narration in Ankahi segment is commendable.

Analysis: 

Among the bunch of Indian anthologies that came out in the last few months, this is probably the most satisfying one after Paava Kadhaigal. None of the stories are boring or cringeworthy. There is no common theme for the four stories but there are certain themes like searching for love, caste discrimination and sexuality which are connected with more than one of the stories. The performances are the major plus for all stories. The writing is uneven though. Some characters are written with depth, some lack depth and some are written well enough to make the story engaging. The small underlying statements made through the stories are good. If at all the stories had to be ranked, Geeli Pucchi is the pick of the lot followed by Khilauna, Majnu and Ankahi. All stories are nearly in the same range when it comes to overall presentation and being engaging. Unlike most anthologies which are a bit too slow paced, this one is racy to an extent and may appeal to large number of people as a result. There is certain adult content in this anthology and not advisable to watch with kids.

On a whole: Ajeeb Daastaans is a decently well made anthology with good performances and signs of good writing at places.

Rating: 3/5

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