OTT giant Netflix, going by the success of past shows like Ajeeb Dastans, Ghost stories, Lust stories, has continued with the formula. This time with three films on intimate realisations in a bustling city by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, Abhishek Chaubey, and Saket Chaudhary. As the name suggests, the short films in Ankahi Kahaniya are anonymous.
To my dismay, the most beautiful production in the three is nestled in between, which makes it less noticeable than the others. Given my tight schedules like the characters of Ankahi Kahniya, I watched the anthology in parts. Slightly underwhelmed after the first, I skipped the second. Catching it the next day, I realise skipping this masterpiece by Abhishek Chaubey is nothing short of an offense.
After the widespread praise of Hungama Kyu Hai Barpa as the best film of Ray, Chaubey delivers again. If you have seen the former, you may remember the taste it induced in the way it was shot, the rich characters, and the attention to detail sited in every frame. It is the same for Chaubey’s film in Ankahi Khahaniya.
The film is set in the time of single screens when Mumbai was still Bombay. The main part of the mise-en-scene is Prakash theatre, single-handedly managed by Nandu, where Manjari comes every Friday to catch a film.
Stifled by the ugliness around them, both find beauty in the reel life. They weave images of other each in their mind with Nandu as the quintessential Hindi film hero and Manjari as dreamgirl. Look closely for the frames: a decrepit theatre hall, broken glasses, a projection room, and a wooden spoon. Every detail has meaning in the film.
Even as a young couple in love, they both have dreams of their own. Through a pensive climax, these characters become metaphors for the unspoken lives of ordinary stories of strength and struggle in Mumbai.
The show opens with Ashwini Iyer. It gives an overview of the life of a lonely salesman in a garment store in Mumbai, played by Patal Lok fame Abhishek Tiwari aka Hathoda Tyagi, calling this character an introvert would be an understatement as he is more than that. Captured in beats, his drudgery is evident to the audience.
From his colleague to the owner, to his roommate, to the city itself exploit him. He eventually falls in love with a mannequin. One may compare it with Ryan Gosling’s Academy awarded film Lars and the Real Girl. Abhishek Chaubey’s mettle as an artist keeps the story afloat as the plot is just satisfactory. The progression feels predictable. However, extremely lonely, his glances at the inanimate woman are poignant.
The final film in Ankahi Kahaniya is perhaps the most sloppy. Neither the glitz nor Kunal Kapoor’s looks can save it from falling flat. This film directed by Saket Chaudhary progresses like an investigation by two people who realise their spouses are cheating on them. Thus, they take a journey to retrace what could have been in reverse shots. The events feel like a half-done script, prompting the audience to simply skim through the film. In the end, there is no great realisation and one just sighs that it is over.
Such films will come and go, and if you’re free, you may even watch them. But a Hungama Hai Kyu Barpa, and the middle film of Ankahi Kahaniya are more likely to be remembered.
Through these, a visual poet emerges namely, Abhishek Chaubey.