Ajeeb Dastaans | NETFLIX | Half brilliant half average

The first scene of the first story ‘Majnu’ opens up with Fatima Sana Shaikh dressed up in a bright red wedding lehenga. With the costumes taking up more attention in the entire frame than Sana and Jaideep Ahlawat, I was apprehensive that this might be headed in a wrong direction. The premise is basic. A couple stuck in a loveless marriage, continues to be miserable together because society, power politics and all that. Until one day when a young boy joins the family business and changes the dynamics of this couple. Shashank Khaitan builds up an interesting plot with his twisted characters, but somehow everything feels very emotionally distant. This story does end with an unexpected closure, but with lack of any nuances to the characters, I felt most disconnected to this one.

The first venture by Karan Johar’s digital branch – Dharmatic productions boasts of a diverse and impressive mix of some big screen and OTT actors.  These are four unique stories about human relationships with layers of social commentary. Slightly put off by the hinglish title but intrigued by the cast I started watching Ajeeb Dastaans with average expectations.

The second story Khilauna by Raj Mehta stars Nussrat Bharruccha as a street smart house help who is also the only guardian of her precious lil sister Binny (Inayat Verma). Their everyday life consists of regular work plus going to some unharming lengths for freebies from their owners. Through their life, the film makes a very obvious commentary on the class divide. Abhishek Banerjee as the local laundry guy is brilliant, but it is Inayat Verma as the kid sister who completely steals the show. It again offers you a spine-chilling ending, but what didn’t work out for me was that I saw it all coming too soon.

Next is Geeli Pucchi by Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan. Konkona Sen is a Dalit and only female worker in a factory full of men. Aditi Rao Hydari is the second female hire for a desk job that Konkona desires, but her ambitions are put in place by her caste. What follows is a beautiful and unusual friendship of these two women. The story not only captures multiple stigmas like homophobia, sexism, castism in its 40 min runtime, but also very meticulously takes us through the order of importance of these societal barriers. Konkona Sen Sharma once again proves to be brilliant supported by a very radiant Aditi Rao Hyadari. Beautifully narrated, hitting all the right spots, Geeli Pucchi happens to be my second favorite in the lot.

Ankahee starring Shefali Shah and Manav Kaul can be called a masterpiece. It delightfully slows down the pace as we enter a truly emotional tale told by an outstanding cast. Director Kayoze Irani weaves a narrative that has every frame looking flawless. It is an absolute delight to watch Manav Kaul and Shefali Shah together create magic in the absence of dialogues. In Ankahee, less is more and for me this was the most heart-touching story of the four.

The best thing about this anthology is its cast that lets none of the stories fail. While some hit harder than the others, none disappoints. The unusual pairs, the experimental direction and some heart-touching moments make for an interesting cocktail of mainstream and OTT content. With Ankahee and Geeli Puchi being my favorite stories, I found the entire series extremely watchable .

Going with 3/5

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