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Ajeeb Daastaans movie review: Neeraj Ghaywan gets KJo’s Dharma to acknowledge caste unequivocally

Ajeeb Daastaans movie review: Neeraj Ghaywan gets KJo’s Dharma to acknowledge caste unequivocally
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Ajeeb Daastaans movie review: Neeraj Ghaywan gets KJo’s Dharma to acknowledge caste unequivocally

One of the upsetting remakes ever made by the Hindi movie trade is Dharma Productions’ Dhadak (2018), a retelling of Nagraj Manjule’s Marathi blockbuster Sairat (2016). The unique was a couple of caste-related homicide. Sairat was totally different from most movies on atrocities towards Dalits as a result of it got here packaged in all the weather business Indian cinema calls for: engaging actors, fairly visuals, one of many decade’s greatest soundtracks and enjoyable dances. Dhadak lifted the masala from Sairat however erased the dialog on caste that was essential to that movie.

Dharma, which is star producer Karan Johar’s firm, partially redeems itself this week for what it did to Sairat. This partial redemption comes with Geeli Pucchi, the phase directed by Neeraj Ghaywan within the four-film anthology Ajeeb Daastaans produced by Dharma’s digital arm, Dharmatic Leisure.

Marginalisation and intersectionality are the threads operating by way of this compilation set in north India.

Ajeeb Daastaans (Hinglish for: Peculiar Tales) opens with Shashank Khaitan’s Majnu. Jaideep Ahlawat right here performs Babloo, the scion of a rich household pressured to marry a girl of his father’s alternative as a result of the previous man didn’t approve of his lover. He has been handled unjustly, however he doesn’t cease to consider how he, like his Dad, is utilizing his socially sanctioned energy to hold one other individual – on this case, his spouse Lipakshi (Fatima Sana Shaikh) – enchained.

Ajeeb Daastaans movie review Neeraj Ghaywan gets KJos Dharma to acknowledge caste unequivocally

Jaideep Ahlawat and Fatima Sana Shaikh in a nonetheless from Ajeeb Daastaans. Picture from Twitter

You may think that this curtain-raiser would lead right into a feminist movie, however Babloo’s failure to recognise his privileged conduct is mirrored by Majnu’s personal seeming unawareness of the way it reduces the girl to a pawn within the arms of even the ‘good’ guys.

Some surprising developments involving a 3rd occasion make Majnu fascinating but it surely stays incomplete with its partial understanding of gender and its deal with class alone in a circumstance the place caste would probably have been an element, an overriding issue, in actual life. Neither loophole comes as a shock since writer-director Khaitan helmed Dhadak and earlier than that, Badrinath Ki Dulhania with its deeply problematic dealing with of a violent man-woman equation. Majnu is an enormous enchancment on these two movies, however gender and sophistication right here come throughout as mere instruments with which to create suspense somewhat than points in the direction of which the author feels any diploma of dedication.

The sensation persists with Khilauna (Toy) directed by Raj Mehta and written by Sumit Saxena. This account of a home employee in a complicated city neighbourhood is little doubt suspenseful, piling horrifying plot turns into its climax, but it surely by no means sits comfortably in its chosen milieu. The ladies of the locality appear oddly oblivious to the style through which the horny family assist (Nushrratt Bharuccha) flashes her curves round city. Odder nonetheless is the otherwise-worldly-wise main girl’s naïve confidence {that a} explicit man might be glad with merely leering at her, though he has his tongue hanging all the best way to the bottom each second that she is round.

Saxena too avoids any overt reference to caste. Khilauna is definitely ajeeb but it surely lacks empathy for the under-represented social teams below the highlight right here – girls and the poor. This comes throughout within the unsympathetic writing of the heroine and her little sister (Inayat Verma) and within the heroine’s excessive unprovoked antagonism in the direction of a childless lady she encounters.

From the primary two movies within the anthology, it seems that the transient was: illustrate how members of marginalised communities may be flawed by way of bizarre tales with wacky twists. It is a unusual purpose to have for the reason that social teams portrayed in Ajeeb Daastaans get restricted area in Indian cinema in any case and dominant teams have a tendency to spotlight their flaws wherever doable in actual life. It goes with out saying that each neighborhood has its good and unhealthy, sensible and silly individuals, and that there are these among the many marginalised who play together with the exploitation of their very own individuals, however what does it reveal about your perspective that whereas portraying this exploitation you select to zero in on jerks, enablers and fools to such an extent that you find yourself both eliciting sympathy for the exploiter or dislike for the exploited? Majnu and Khilauna do exactly that, whereas the fourth movie of the quartet, Ankahi, is a combined bag.

Directed by Kayoze Irani, Ankahi (Unstated) is about Natasha (Shefali Shah), a mom whose baby (Sara Arjun) develops a incapacity, her husband (Tota Roy Choudhury) rising distant throughout this tough section, and her friendship with an artist known as Kabir (Manav Kaul). The in depth use of signal language on this brief, the writing of these dialogues and the best way they’re blended with the background rating are virtually poetic. The conversations in signal language are additionally, typically, humorous. In the long run although, an essential particular person’s selfishness is abruptly chucked into the script – co-written by Irani and Saxena – with no concern for the truth that it’s inconsistent with the characterisation of this individual till then as being type and considerate. The one who finally ends up consequently harm is superbly written – extra’s the pity.

The one director who adheres to Ajeeb Daastaans’ theme with out being indifferent from his characters or writing them erratically is Neeraj Ghaywan who has steered Movie No. 3 within the set, Geeli Pucchi (Moist/Sloppy Kisses, co-written with Saxena). Konkona Sensharma right here performs Bharti Mandal, a Dalit manufacturing facility employee who finds an surprising friendship together with her Brahmin white-collar colleague, Priya Sharma (Aditi Rao Hydari). Geeli Pucchi really makes use of the phrase D-a-l-i-t that Dhadak was so afraid of. It additionally factors out the co-existence of class and caste bias, a actuality that the Hollywood manufacturing The White Tiger, which is about in India, tried to wipe away.

Ajeeb Daastaans movie review Neeraj Ghaywan gets KJos Dharma to acknowledge caste unequivocally

Konkona Sensharma (left) with Aditi Rao Hydari in a nonetheless from Ajeeb Daastaans. Picture from Twitter

Blatant casteism, patriarchy and homophobia are fitted easily into Geeli Pucchi. So is a hierarchy within the prejudices concerned, demonstrated by the traces a major, supposedly open-minded character refuses to cross. Ghaywan’s nuanced dealing with of delicate points right here is paying homage to the intelligence and sensitivity he displayed in his debut movie Masaan.

Neither Bharti nor Priya is a saint. Their weaknesses although are plausible, not contrivances jammed into the script for shock worth, nor designed to conjure up compassion for the oppressor though no group is tarred with one brush.

Sensharma is close to good on this phase. Her chameleon-like flip as Bharti is so delicate that it’s exhausting to describe in phrases.

The opposite excellent efficiency in Ajeeb Daastaans comes from Kaul who follows up his current genius in Nail Polish with the attraction and poignance he brings to Kabir.

It’s good to see Hydari in a talking position that faucets her abilities after such a very long time. Verma (who not too long ago starred in Ludo) has the pure ease of a seasoned artiste in her portrayal of an unnervingly precocious baby. Armaan Ralhan who seems in Majnu is an rising expertise to be careful for.

There are a number of stable performances in Ajeeb Daastaans, which is why Bharuccha’s unconvincing try at taking part in a poor, subjugated lady stands out. Ahlawat, who remains to be reaping accolades for his outstanding performing within the streaming collection Pataal Lok, appears to be like good-looking and regal in Majnu, however struggles in a romantic scene – when he tells a possible lover, “Arrey, don’t name me Bhaiyya,” he sounds unwittingly farcical.

There’s a kernel of an thought in Ajeeb Daastaans that’s undoubtedly price exploring: the marginalised shouldn’t have to be good to deserve help towards injustice. A lot of the writing although comes from a spot of blinkered privilege. The movie can’t be dismissed outright, nonetheless. I might revisit Ajeeb Daastaans for an opportunity to rewatch Ghaywan’s Geeli Pucchi, the signal language scenes in Ankahi and for, and for Konkona Sensharma and Manav Kaul in full movement.

Ajeeb Daastaans is now streaming on Netflix

Ranking: 2.75 (out of 5 stars)

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