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Movie Review: ‘Ankahi Kahaniya’ (Netflix)

As more and more film-makers are taking advantage of the freedom that comes with story-telling through OTT platforms, the upcoming trend in directors collaborating their short stories together in one project, seems to spark an interest with many film lovers. The new anthology of stories to be told in this way is Netflix’s ‘Ankahi Kahaniya’ (2021), with Abhishek Chaubey, Saket Chaudhary and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari behind three different stories all focusing on relationships. With such established directors joining forces, it has to be said that many have had high hopes for this one. But is half an hour for each storyline enough for audiences to be engaged?

Iyer Tiwari directs Abhishek Banerjee in the role of Pradeep, a sales assistant in the women’s section of a clothes store in the heart of Mumbai. Coming from the small town of Madhya, Pradeep’s life is reflected as a lonely man with nobody to care for in his life until the arrival of a female mannequin uses to attract more female customers to the store. Besotted with the mannequin, Pradeep begins to create the illusion of the object being a real person, giving her a name and taking her out of the shop after closing. However, trouble begins for Pradeep as soon as his boss finds out what he has been doing.

The second story helmed by Chaubey represents Nandu (Delzad Hiwale), a young boy who works in a run-down theatre and looks after his ailing drunk uncle, and Manjari (Rinku Rajguru), a college student who also sells her embroidery to make her own money. Living with a strict mother, brother and surrounded by neighbouring men who gawk at her, Manjari visits the cinema with her friend as a means to escape. Setting her eyes on Nandu one day she begins to see him as her hero. Nandu, stuck in his own living predicament sees Manjari and begins to fall in love. Eventually becoming friends, they both realise they are each other ticket out of their situations – however, their relationship seems to be more about getting away than being together.

Chaudhary’s narrative is far from the ones before, depicting the way Tanu Mathur (Zoya Hussain) and Manav (Kunal Kapoor) go through each stage of how their perspective spouses began their affair with each other. With both Tanu and Mathur expressing what their partner would have said and done on their part, they themselves begin to open up about their own issues with their marriages, taking on different views and discovering how they are more than what their partners reflect on them.

Having the space to tell rather unusual plot lines, Tiwari, Chaubey and Chaudhary have created shorts that are different and enlightening, which keep their audience on their toes. Each cast member does a brilliant job in reflecting their director’s vision, where each performance feels real and compelling. However, with many highs, there are some lows. Tiwari’s idea of showcasing a person having a relationship with an inanimate object can make the viewer rather uncomfortable and confused, making them question why he wouldn’t use other means to meet new people, which also makes Pradeep far from relatable. Chaubey’s attempt to take his hero and heroine on a different route to a happy ever after is a little odd. Though it is invigorating to see his lead get what they want, the ending leaves his audiences with more questions than when they first started watching. Saket’s direction was probably the most eye-opening, with her leads going through physical and emotional journeys of their own. However, at times it did become slightly predictable and really left viewers wondering if something like this would actually happen.

Much of the interest that keeps the audience going is due to the excellent performances. Banerjee is sincere and honest with his performance, adding a sense of vulnerability to his character which keeps viewers sympathise with his character despite being a little alarmed at his actions. Hiwale and Rajguru make a wonderful pairing, where at times the audience become rather engrossed in the situations they find themselves in. With very little dialogue, they both showcased stand-out performances through their expressions and body language which only helped with keeping their viewers from skipping to the next story. Though he may not sign a wide number of big Bollywood projects, there’s no doubt in saying Kapoor is a favourite amongst cinema-goers, which only makes this anthology all the more exciting to watch. Playing an under-appreciated husband who has his own complexities, Kapoor’s performance is earnest and heart-felt where Hussain as Maya tells him all the things a man in his position should be told. Hussain is as equally wonderful to watch as her co-star. Being in the same predicament she is able to showcase her characters intangible emotions, where her ability to switch them up in an instant only makes her viewer more committed to her characters next move.

Overall, this group of stories works well as an anthology, however, with the short time-frame, it was easy to see how difficult these may have become to edit. With very little time each story feels like it jumps too fast in places where at times the viewer feels rushed in trying to understand what’s happening. Though the concept of each story holds much interest, there doesn’t seem to be a lot for them to hold on to in terms of understanding why these projects were made in this way. With each short showing different perspectives on relationships is a positive eye-opener, which only makes the audience wanting more. The performances defiantly keep the audience’s attention and with each having happy endings bare comforting. However, for someone looking for a gripping and intense watch, this may be one to miss. It is light and deserves to be watched once. The makers of the film have done a good job and the idea’s behind stories like this give way to interesting projects to come.

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