Ajeeb Daastaans is the latest release on Netflix. The Karan Johar produced film does best when its ensemble cast rises to the occasion, emoting authentically on screen, and the frustrations of their characters.
For an anthology aiming to juxtapose a series of contrasting stories in a bid to create a thematically cohesive narrative, the movie is earnest, if not flawless. Essentially a heady concoction of bizarre tales told by four different filmmakers, the film blends unique cinematic styles with awkward social scenarios, giving rise to a few genuinely engaging moments.
With a short feature each from directors Shashank Khaitan, Raj Mehta, Neeraj Ghaywan and Kayoze Irani, this Karan Johar backed production meticulously actualises on screen, a world that is similar to our own that is still deceptively surreal, masking the film’s morally-charged rhetoric with authentic cinematic conflict. The film does have some disturbing scenes which might leave scars on your mind but if you are good at handling such these then the movie might be amazing for you.
Its titular figures, hailing from different walks of Indian life, are united by their resentment at having to endure a repressive social order. Subsequently, faced with a complex array of predicaments, they are forced to seek an escape from their miseries, often leading to strange consequences.
Fatima Sana Shaikh as the sensuous yet unsaturated Lipakshi, complements adequately the magnetic screen presence of screen veteran Ahlwat. Manav Kaul’s portrayal of a mute man hopelessly in love with Shefali Shah’s Natasha is endearing, laying the groundwork for a proper tear-jerker.
Then there is Konkona Sen Sharma, who stamps her authority on-screen with an unconventional yet prolific portrayal of the steadfast Bharti, who urges others to accept their reality while being unable to accept her own. Aditi Rao Hydari delivers an equally spirited performance, carving out a truly relatable character whom you would love to hate.
Separately, Abhishek Banerjee and Nusrat Barucha’s chemistry along with child actor Inayat Verma’s serious acting chops, bring to life one of the most interesting stories of the anthology.
Complex themes such as sexuality and casteism are explored quite boldly, with the film trying to actively comment on India’s class divides and the atrocities which stem from them. In doing so, it refrains from being preachy, instead opting for a recreation of its character’s surroundings which is rooted in reality, with the camera as an impartial observer.
Watching this movie will give you the feeling of watching four movies at once.