Review of Ghost Stories - Banerjee’s Short That Pulled the Anthology Movie

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Everybody with an internet connection or social media knows what 'Netflix and Chill' means. It is the most significant trend in the world of digital entertainment. The year 2020 offered all possibilities to stick to this tagline. 

This year offered so many of Bollywood so far. The one such is the “Ghost Stories”. Like my previous movie Review on Axone, this time let's talk about the Anthology pattern of Movie 'Ghost Stories'.

This is the third Anthology film together for Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, and Karan Johar after 'Bombay Talkies' and 'Lust Stories'. Let me remind you, for all of the four filmmakers, this is a new genre altogether. So how the film performs is much more interesting, because this is the genre industry believes is best avoided.

Starting with Zoya Akhtar’s segment. The film starts with the backdrop of the Old Mumbai Apartment with heavy rainfalls. The filmmaker (Akhtar) does an impeccable job of portraying the geography of the place. The best part of Zoya Akhtar’s film-making is, she puts the audience in the protagonist’s place and allows us to feel what she is feeling.

Talking about the cast. Star kid Janhvi Kapoor maintains stick to her character, however, her accent is not as consistent. The old woman character played by Surekha Sikri cannot be ignored. It’s like she knows as to what type of Character she is into and aces it with precision.

The second segment directed by none other than Anurag Kashyap. Kashyap’s film-making is based on undercurrents of cultural, psychological, and political horror. Take an example of the films 'No Smoking', 'Raman Raghav 2.0'. Kashyap’s style of transforming the trauma of miscarriage into a stylized psychological thriller is what been felt here.

As always doing web series like 'Made In Heaven' she once again proves that she can be the actor to trust upon. She can add more dimensions to the character even in the Short time. Kashyap never fails to pull the strings, but similar courage has not been felt here. 

Here comes the third segment. Or I should say the Promising segment. Dibakar Banerjee’s, in my opinion, serves the best shorts among the four. It satirically portrays with the pinch of 'Zombie Movie' to express the modern machinery of the Government’s educational model.

Talking about the cast. Gulshan Devaiah is a major highlight of the Short. With one scene and a handful of dialogues, this man can scare the daylights out of you. By his film-making, he also raises the issue of Kashmir and its internet lock-down. Unlike the other segments of the movie, it adds meaning to a widely misused genre.

The last segment is of Karan Johar. To be honest, this is what I truly predicted. The lavish house, a high-society family, house help to stir their morning breakfast, and last but not the least “Wedding”, Johar plays his role best. While watching movies of Johar, you know what will be the ending but you continue to watch expecting a surprise at the end.

The Film-maker’s style to mix phycological horror with Melodrama of family and an infamous Bollywood Masala proved to be an unsuccessful attempt. Karan’s Short is so underwhelming that I actually went back and watched Dibakar’s short again.

Critical Acclamation!

It seems like Akhtar and Johar has taken the Movie title literally in the maximum way possible, through ghosts, old ladies, haunted houses and terrified female protagonists. As always it’s what content matters. 

In the case of Akhtar’s work, I struggled to understand the big picture over this Short. This is because it’s taking time to digest if you recall the 'Gully Boy' and 'Lust Stories'.

To be sarcastic, Banerjee in his segment should produce creative freedom or should be more of producing the reality of mainstream. The result is a tonally inconsistent but visually refined film that throws in random Christian symbolism with desi scare tactics and ends up resembling one of those Ekta Kapoor serials about naagins and whatnot. 

It’s a mess, but it’s also the only segment that doesn’t take itself too seriously. In the promotional video, all four directors discuss the vision of creating content of the global streaming giant. Perhaps reshuffling the lineup might have helped, but this is assuming you watch the entire thing in one sitting. 

Ideally, Ghost Stories, for its benefit, must not be viewed as a whole. It’s fearless but frustrating; ambitious, but not ambitious enough.

Written by – Utkarsh Samaiya

Edited by  Ivanova

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