wogma rating: Watch some time, some day, but for sure (?)
An intense set of well-made, well-performed short films. They explore the extent to which humans can go to snatch a share of what they think they deserve, even if it’s a warped sense of justice. A couple films are exploitative because they use shock value.
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Almost anyone who has seen Ajeeb Daastaans will have one image flash before their eyes every time they think of the film. That’s good from recall value point-of-view but is an replusive sensation in the spine for the recaller. It could have meant that it was a well-crafted scene. Unfortunately, it stayed with me as shock-for-the-sake-of-shock and thus became a loss in an otherwise well-built up story.
The last film comes as a breath of fresh air--as fresh as is Shefali Chhaya’s presence
Two other stories too take you aback by what the characters are willing to do to get what they think they deserve. Here, however, if that extra twist was missing it would have made the story ordinary and predictable. So, while the “extra” feels forced it is necessary too. Also, even if it didn’t work for me completely, I appreciated the effort in trying to make it different. After all, they were aiming at making the stories ajeeb, weird, interesting.
The four Ajeeb Daastaans cover a spectrum within each of the many themes—infidelity, revenge, loneliness—to name a few. The first three films also have a running theme of inequality, the resultant power dynamics and how they can be overturned. Maybe because I have a below-average stomach for gore, it felt like they took the “each person is the others’ toy” a bit too far. The theme that stood out for me though was the “odd sense of fairness” that the stories conclude with. The culminations of the situations aren’t wrong, but they aren’t right either. They certainly keep you thinking for a bit.
In the noir lot then, the last film comes as a breath of fresh air--as fresh as is Shefali Chhaya’s presence. She has a pleasantness about her that it washes away a lot of the meanness you have seen so far. Of course, her character is real and charming too. The short stands because of how different it is from the other three films not only because it is warm, but also because it is not ajeeb at all. If you mask the special needs part of the story, it is like any other romantic film. But, it is remarkable that it would still have worked—thanks to the performances, the production values, the music and lyrics, and of course the dialogue.
In fact, performances across the films are on the mark, and some of them interesting. From Fatima Shaikh playing a seductress to the suffering-yet-sure Konkona Sen Sharma you to even Nushrat Bharucha’s uneven attempt to play an underprivileged woman—the acts keep you engaged. Evidently, this noir film revolves around women and that’s refreshing.
Ajeeb Daastaans is a couple of hours well-spent despite how uncomfortable it tries to make you with the evil thoughts of human beings, if not the gross actions they actually take.
- meeta, a part of the audience
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