‘Ajeeb Dastaans’ – A winning combination of offbeat stories & performances

Cast: Jaideep Alhawat, Fatima Sana Sheikh, Nushrat Bharucha, Abhishek Banerjee, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aditi Rao Hydari, Shefali Shah and Manav Kaul.

Directors: Kayoze Irani, Neeraj Ghaywan, Shashank Khaitan

A four-part anthology series, Netflix’s ‘Ajeeb Dastaans’ is part Ajeeb (weird) and part Dastaans (stories). To me, this film actually felt as a continuation of ‘Paava Kadhaigal’ (Sin Stories), a Tamil anthology film that explored themes of honour, love and pride. You see a lot of similar themes being explored in ‘Ajeeb Dastaans’, however, the first two short stories – ‘Majnu’ and ‘Khilauna’ – sacrifice any deeper character building for the sake of the plot, while the latter two – ‘Geeli Pucchi’ and ‘Ankahi’ – found the right balance between character performances and storytelling.

I do appreciate the film’s commitment to telling offbeat stories without stretching it out to be a feature length film. None of the stories are any longer than they need to be and allow you to experience a gamut of emotions within the 142 minutes of running time. Obviously, depending on the audience, some of the films are a hit and some a miss, but there is something for everyone.

The most refreshing aspect of the film was its cast of actors. Each of them delivered good performances that held the stories together and kept me gripped. You’re so used to seeing a Khan, Kapoor or Khanna romance on screen that seeing new permutation and combinations of actors play off one another creates a sense of exciting possibilities.

I do believe that the film and content on Netflix in general is veering towards certain tropes like depicting the underbelly of Indian culture, sex, discrimination (ableism, sexual orientation, feminism, caste), but any real thematic exploration of these issues is missing, so it feels like they are just adding a pinch of woke-ness to cater to certain audiences.

The film overall was ‘OK’, and I would recommend everyone to watch it once and make up their own minds.


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