Netflix's Ajeeb Daastaans has a brilliant cast; ‘Geeli Pucchi’ steals the show
Netflix original Ajeeb Daastaans has been grabbing eyeballs ever since its announcement. The reasons were obvious.
The film is produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions; one of the anthologies is directed by National Award winning Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan; and its cast includes Konkona Sen Sharma, Jaideep Ahlawat, Abhishek Banerjee, Aditi Rao Hydari, Shefali Shah, and Tota Roy Chowdhury, among others.
The anthology of four short films, Ajeeb Daastaans released on April 16 on Netflix, and runs for 142 minutes
Stories, themes, people
Ajeeb Daastaans opens with Majnu, a story of Babloo and Lipakshi who are stuck in a loveless marriage. On the very night of the wedding, Babloo informed his bride — his father hadn’t approved of his son’s lover and forced him into this marriage.
Lipakshi, a sweet seductress, falls in love with the driver’s son and even plans to elope with him. There’s confessions, photoshopped videos, revenge, and heartbreaks.
A scene from the shot Majnu
The second short, Khilauna by Raj Mehta is a story on the class system. A domestic help who flaunts her curves, a little sister who helps with chores after school, and a laundryman who has an affair with the domestic help. There are several common but it has an unusually disturbing climax that is bound to stay with you. tropes
The third take is Geeli Pucchi by Neeraj Ghaywan, starring Konkona Sen Sharma, an actor who never fails to deliver, and Aditi Rao Hydari, a promising star in the making. Konkona plays Bharti Mandal, the only female factory worker in a male-only factory. Enter Priya Sharma, the only other woman in the factory.
Priya, played by Aditi, takes over the job role that Bharti has been betting on for a long time but was declined for being a Dalit. Initially despising Priya for her caste privileges, Bharti finds her to be the only ray of hope in life. The caste difference between the two is portrayed in a very subtle yet impactful manner.
A scene from Geeli Pucchi
The last short, Ankahi comes with a typical mainstream Bollywood climax. Delhi Crime’s Shefali Shah plays Natasha, the mother of an almost deaf teenage daughter. She is always concerned about the life that awaits her daughter, looking to knock some sense into her distant husband Rohan, played by actor Tota Roy Chowdhury.
The film has a powerful dialogue right at the beginning when Rohan refuses to learn sign language to communicate with their daughter.
Natasha’s response, “Sign language is her only language,” goes on to define the course of their story.
After being in an almost loveless marriage, Natasha finds love in a deaf photographer. The director beautifully builds her character as a kind-hearted and thoughtful woman but fails to hold her to it.
A scene from Ankahi
What really stands out is that Neeraj Ghaywan, a Dalit himself, made Karan Johar do what he had never done before — make a film addressing the underprivileged. However, one might question why the director decided to cast an upper-class actor (Konkona) for the role of a Dalit.
To that, the director took to Twitter to address the issue.
Geeli Pucchi is probably the only short in the anthology that dives deeper into the issues it sets out to narrate. It is subtle in its portrayal, but successfully stirs its audience.
Konkona, as always, succeeds in brilliant, and Aditi does a decent job as well.
Shashank Khaitan’s Majnu tries addressing a lot of issues persistent in the Indian society — loveless arranged marriages, the class system, entrusting a family’s reputation on a woman, and same-sex marriages, among others. While the intentions are right, Shashank seems to have only touched upon these themes without really dwelling upon them. Thus, even though the message does come across well, it fails to create an impact.
Actor Jaideep Ahlawat lives up to the expectations after his stellar work in Amazon Prime’s Paatal Lok. Fatima Sana Shaikh, who plays Lipakshi, also successfully portrays herself as the seductive and sexy wife who plays too hard to win but ultimately comes as a damsel-in-distress.
A shot from Khilauna
Nushrat Bharucha, who plays Meenal, the house help in Khilauna is effortlessly poised and knows how to get things done. Abhishek Banerjee seems underutilised after his nerve-chilling role in Paatal Lok. Director Raj Mehta seems to have failed to make the most of the brilliant actor.
After playing the Emmy-nominated role of Vartika Chaturvedi in Delhi Crime, nothing less than absolute perfection is expected from Shefali Shah. Beautiful and bold in her white dress and kohled eyes, Shefali, however, fails to make an impact.
Verdict: If time is scarce, skip the rest and watch Geeli Pucchi.