‘Ankahi Kahaniya’, the literal translation of this 2021 Bollywood film title is ‘Untold Stories’. Quick verdict – They should’ve been left that way. This Netflix anthology that’s almost two hours long is a compilation of three short films, that feel too long. If you can make a 30 minutes movie seem boring… boss, you are not doing things right.

It could be a spectacular co-incidence – but the third short directed by Saket Chaudhary seemed like a blatant rip-off of the novella ‘Evidence of the Affair’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid, the author of popular novels like ‘Daisy Jones and the Six’ and ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’. Just like the novella’s plot, a woman discovers her husband is cheating on her, so she reaches out to the husband of the ‘other’ woman. Everything that happens in the book, also happens in the film, except that Reid is given no credit and the Hindi dialogues are abysmally bad. “Every couple wants their marriage to end”.. “Infidelity is the reality of modern marriage” – these are the generic bullshitty dialogues that the protagonists spew as if they are 80-year-old philosophers. The acting and dialogue delivery is so flat, that it’s hard to watch most of it without cringing. Kunal Kapoor and Zoya Hussain are the lead actors in this one, and while Kapoor looks perpetually miffed for some reason, Hussain feels like a phony therapist.

Let’s move to the second short film, which is directed by Abhishek Chaubey and set in Mumbai. This one was slightly more bearable and follows two young protagonists Manjari (Rinku Rajguru) and Nandu (Delzad Hiwale), who love watching films. The two are from economically strained families, living in squalor, and escape the reality of their surroundings by imagining themselves as their onscreen idols. Manjari is a strong lead, she wants to study, but her parents don’t send her to college, so instead she makes money by doing embroidery work and then escapes to the world of cinema. We don’t get a lot of insights into Nandu, except for the fact that he works at the movie hall and takes care of an ailing alcoholic uncle. The film captures the essence of a lost era – that of the 80s & 90s, where courtships began with stolen glances and silly little gestures. However, the pace was slow and there were a lot of unnecessary shots of things most viewers would not have any interest in; for example a zoom in shot of a plate laden with messy food that one cannot even identify. “Why do we need to see this ugly food strewn on her plate?” I wondered out loud. Apart from the annoying shots, the story was interesting and steeped in reality, portraying the aspirations of the young ones from a poorer section of the society.

As far as the first story is concerned, it was quite creepy, not even weird, just creepy, even though the makers try to sugar-coat the central issue. The story follows a clothing-store worker Pradeep Lahoria (Abhishek Banerjee) in Mumbai, who is originally from a small village. He is so lonely in the big city that he starts to treat a mannequin like a lover. Now the basic plot is not even original, go to YouTube and you’ll find 100s of videos/features/documentaries about lonely men in China getting married to robots or treating blow-up dolls like their girlfriends. This need for men to gratify themselves with an inanimate object is because of the skewed sex-ratio in the country. However, in ‘Ankahi Kahaniya’, just loneliness doesn’t seem like reason enough to get cozy with a mannequin, it points to a deeper rooted mental health problem that’s not dealt with seriously in the story. Because even after Pradeep finds a woman to marry – his childhood friend who seems out of his league – he continues to pine for the mannequin. The most ridiculous part of the story is, when Pradeep confesses to the girl that he would take the mannequin around with him on dates, the girl claims it’s completely normal behaviour. “THIS IS HOW PEOPLE IN LOVE IGNORE RED FLAGS” I yelled out loud. The messaging of this tale is quite fucked up, so if I had to rate just this tale alone, I would give it a 1/5. Full points to actor Abhishek Banerjee for portraying a disturbed nut though.

Overall, it’s a 2/5 from me.

Stream on: Netflix

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