Let us leave aside the name, because that’s a lie.
These are four stories or rather interpretations of darker human psyches. Some makers have played safe and some have pushed boundaries, the result is inconsistent. Indian filmmakers have started treating Netflix as a testing ground for their unfulfilled creativity that was too brave for mainstream. We the digital audience are the guinea pigs, so expect to be surprised, manipulated, cheated and sometimes times intrigued.
Story 1 – Zoya Akhtar
Beginning frame is very ‘Aahat inspired’ (90’s horror show). Akhtar relies on the usual formula horror pretext. Dark frames, bleak visuals, heightened tension through music etc. The story here is the simplest to comprehend among the four. Similarities of loneliness and abandonment are built between a young nurse and an ailing old lady in a decaying spooky house. No complaints or praises for the actors, there isn’t much given for them to shine. There is a natural rhythm to the narration which keeps you connected, also a lot of detailing into design and cinematography which works well for the mood of the story but all of this leads only to disappoint you with a banal ending , force-fit into the genre. It’s anything but horror.
Story 2 – Anurag Kashyap
I am not a Kashyap fan, but on most days I get his twisted narration, dark characters and provocative storytelling, this one fails me though. Kashyap explores the dark sides of prenatal and maternal anxiety pushing all boundaries of disturbing imagination. Shobita Dhulipia as Neha surrenders to the character and (much to her admiration) breathes disgust into it. Kashyap also runs parallels between motherhood of a crow and Neha. It’s the intersection of these two that makes things bizarre. The incoherent, multi-layered narrative and excessively gory visuals almost feel like this one was never made for audiences to watch or grasp, this was just the makers going all out with a lot of creativity for one 40-min story to handle.
It was nauseating, not frightening.
Story 3 – Dibakar Banerjee
Best of the quartet, Dibakar Banerjee almost gives a masterclass on how to use symbolism to the point of disbelief and then bring it back to striking reality.
Man is eating man for survival in this imaginative yet relatable world that is created. Two kids have survived the bestiality of the mankind so far and explain the basic rules of survival to an unknown visitor. Rules are simple – don’t move, don’t talk, join them or get eaten. casteism, mob mentality, minority bashing, lynching- the allusions are left to your imagination(there are enough hints) in this clever play of psychological fear. Remarkable scenes and brilliant cast(Sukant Goel, Gulshan Devaiah and Aditya Shetty) hit home without any ‘ghost-like’ elements.
It’s brave and experimental, the closest that comes to a dimension of fear, but is it horror?
Story 4 – Karan Johar
It’s a comedy of horrors and the one that’s most misplaced and dispensable.
Big mansions, privileged lead characters, beautiful costumes and a larger than life wedding is a package deal with any KJo production, story comes later. I am surprised how he didn’t squeeze in an item number. The premise is as artificial as the characters. Inspired by his own self, the characters are – sassy, wannabe millennial and over dramatic. There is pointless camera panning, and sudden entry ,exits for cheap thrills. In the end, there is no revelation, you are just glad that it’s over.
These could have been 4 independent short films, would have made more sense and probably would have served different audience, leading to less overall disappointment. Maybe.
If you are picky and can’t put yourself through all of it , I would recommend watching Story 3.
And if you have watched all 4, leave comments, I am up for debate 🙂