The Jakarta Post
Although India is known for having produced the Kama Sutra, sex is still considered a taboo subject, particularly in film. However, Netflix original film Lust Stories tackles head on the subject of female sexuality in conservative Indian society.
Lust Stories is an anthology film comprising four short films from renowned Indian directors Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kahsyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar. Each director presents their own take on the rarely discussed topic of how Indian women deal with their sexual desires as well as love.
The film opens with the story of Kalindi (Radhika Apte), a professor who is involved in a fling with her student. At first glance, Kalindi seems to know how to control her feelings. However, the film reveals that she is a married woman in an open relationship, something unusual in a conservative society.
Kalindi, wrestling with emotions of confusion and obsession, finds herself acting in immature ways.
Directed by Kahsyap, the short film features an interesting monologue that explores the dynamics of lust and love. The subject might be relatable for Asian women in particular as many of them believe that marriage is a sacred union between two people.
The second short film, directed by Akhtar, begins with a couple passionately making love on a messy bed. It then reveals that the woman is a housekeeper named Sudha (Bhumi Pednekar), while the man is her employer Ajit (Neil Bhoopalam).
The film shows how Sudha carries out her daily routine, cleaning up Ajit’s bachelor pad. One day, Ajit’s parents come. While making cups of chai (Indian milk tea), Sudha hears that Ajit’s marriage has been arranged.
The third film brings audiences to Reena (Manisha Koirala), a well-off mother of two. Directed by Banerjee, the film follows Reena, who is married to the self-centered Salman (Sanjay Kapoor), in her weekend getaway. Feeling unfulfilled, she has an affair with Sudhir (Jaideep Ahlawat), Salman’s best friend. The plot thickens when Salman finds out that Reena is staying in Sudhir’s beach house, leaving her no choice but to come clean.
The last film follows Megha (Kiara Advani), a beautiful teacher and dream bride for any man. Megha meets her husband through an arranged marriage. However, her husband fails to realize that Megha is more than just a pretty and obedient wife – she is a grown-up woman with a sexual desire.
Each short film discusses female sexuality in a very honest way. Kahsyap’s film presents the audience with questions about love and lust.
Meanwhile, Akhtar's story explores emotions with little dialogue. Housekeeper Sudha's quiet nature is the strength of the film, which showcases not only different social classes, but also the heart-wrenching reality that sometimes women are treated merely as sexual objects.
On the flip side, Banerjee presents a strong woman who is forced to navigate a patriarchal society. With her charm, Reena pulls the strings in the bizarre love triangle. Furthermore, Banerjee shows that sex and love are not always tied.
In the last film, Johar allows the audience to laugh at irony. Megha is an example of a women who feels ashamed about sex. Moreover, as sex remains taboo, the men in the film are unaware about the needs of a women.
All in all, Lust Stories is worth watching. It not only brilliantly discusses taboo topics, but it also questions a woman’s place in modern society, especially when love and lust collide.
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