Ankahi Kahaniya is the latest in Netflix’s offering of anthologies & presents three short films, each with a duration of around 40 minutes, directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Abhishek Chaubey & Saket Chaudhary. Each of the three films revolves around the theme of love & loneliness.
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari deals with the phenomenon of loneliness in a bustling city where people don’t talk to each other, unless it’s for work purposes. A story with great potential that has themes of desperation, rejection from the world where there is a great need for belonging and acceptance. A rough duration of 40 minutes has a montage of daily activities that establish the character of Pradeep (Abhishek Banerjee) – a migrant in Mumbai, working in a garment store. All the men (precisely 2) in Pradeep’s life seem to be having their share of romantic relationships while Pradeep eats alone, watches films alone, walks home alone and sleeps alone. Such situations push him to schizophrenic tendencies & he takes a liking to a mannequin of a woman. He dresses her in the best garments from the shop he works in, buys her jewellery, takes her to the beach. When he takes her, or rather “it”, for a spin in the city, you would think it would have been interesting to see some light thrown on people reacting to a grown up man holding hands with a mannequin but the screenplay makes no space for that. As the mannequin seemingly starts to “fill” the void in Pradeep’s life, things take a turn for the worse when his boss catches him dancing with the mannequin & fires him. Things eventually get better but the story lacks the depth a subject like this required & the writing seems rushed to fit a story within the short duration.
Abhishek Chaubey’s short has a filmy quotient of a perfect 100. He recreates the era of single screen theatres magnificently. With utmost precision, he presents the perfect mis-en-scene with the correct lighting, the correct frames and the right elements within it. At its heart, it’s a story of courage & grace under pressure as Ernest Hemingway would say. Both the protagonists – Manjari played by Rinku Rajguru and Nandu played by Delzad Hiwale – live in dire circumstances. The boy works at a cinema hall, selling samosas, peanuts, changing film reels and cleaning the washrooms while the girl’s life is as claustrophobic as the chawl she lives in where she has a daily brush with harassment, both physical and mental. They share glances at the stalls and with the natural hesitation they meet and talk, one step at a time. But since it’s an anthology and the next film has to play this film, like its predecessor, picks up pace suddenly just when the romance begins to shape up.You would think they would grow up together and walk the same paths but Chaubey’s films are more honest than that. It’s a film that is very well acted by the two leads and excellently shot, written and directed.
Saket Chaudhary’s film is a one-way street, where there is only one way it can lead to, but the only difference is that we are traveling backwards in it. Tanu (Zoya Hussain) and Manav (Kunal Kapoor) are two strangers in marriages of their own, when they soon become aware of their partners having an affair with each other. The third film is set in the present day world of iPads and tech conferences, where infidelity mushrooms in discreet hotel suites. These victims of unfaithful spouses decide to trace back the beginnings and the reasons for the affair, with the hope to find where they themselves went wrong in their respective marriages. As they, in a sense, reenact the escalation of the affair, Tanu and Manav give each other answers they were looking for. They have all the right comebacks and intellect that their partners didn’t. With little help in the form of writing and direction, the performances don’t fare well. It gets tiresome, predictable and lazy when you know that these two strangers are actually a better match for each other than their spouses are for them. It’s a concept done before and the filming doesn’t transport you to the chaos of two failing marriages. The reasons for the fallouts are borrowed from a box of cliches and that’s all there is to it.
While Chaubey’s film is head & shoulders above the other two, ‘Ankahi Kahaniya’ is uninspired and draggy. In a pool of anthologies by Netflix, it tries hard to stay afloat maybe because the stories being put forward need more time to be able to provide an immersive experience where you relate with the characters & understand their emotional toll instead of just being fed with “content”.
Ankahi Kahaniya is now streaming on Netflix.