Ankahi Kahaniya Review: Abhishek Chaubey's Tender Short is a Clear Winner

·4 min read

Here’s a handy tip. Next time you find an Abhishek Chaubey directorial in an anthology, just go watch his film first because that single short will encapsulate the essence and viewing pleasure of all the others combined.

His Hungama Hai Kyun Barpa was the best in the Ray anthology, and Ankahi Kahaniya is memorable because of Chaubey's mastery over his craft. Sandwiched between two rather tepid stories is a gem of a film about love, longing and the fierce need to let desire take flight.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Rinku Rajguru in <em>Ankahi Kahaniya</em>.</p></div>

Rinku Rajguru in Ankahi Kahaniya.

Rinku Rajguru’s face registers so many varied emotions in a single moment that it's tough to take one's eyes off her. The opening shots expertly establish the decrepit, hardscrabble life of our protagonists. Manjari (Rinku) wants more from life, even if it means getting one cookie for herself carefully wrapped in a handkerchief to sit and relish when the reality of her surroundings become too hard to bear. She cooks, cleans, and tolerates the jibes of her family and uncomfortable stares from random men. Cinema and the colourful stories Manjari sees on celluloid keep her flame burning. Soon, Nandu’s quiet presence makes her glow. Delzade Hiwale is absolutely brilliant as the sincere, wide-eyed young man who, like Manjari, wants to break free and run but probably isn’t as brave.

Based on the Kannada story Madhyantara by Jayant Kaikini, Hussain Haidry and Abhishek Chaubey ‘s screenplay poignantly manages to pack so much detail into its humble runtime without spelling out everything and spoon-feeding us.

One wants to inhabit an earthy, unpretentious 80s world created with so much love long after it's over, but sadly what follows is the most disappointing of the three films. Directed by Saket Chaudhary, this one explores marriage and infidelity. Tanu (Zoya Hussain) tracks down Manav (Kunal Kapur), the husband of the woman who her husband is having an affair with. Complicated as the situation might be, Saket and Zeenat Lakhani’s writing never quite manages to rescue it from the banality it plummets to. Here is a wife trying to re-enact how her husband could possibly have seduced the other woman, while the man must pretend to be the cheating wife and improvise it further. “Infidelity is the reality of modern marriage” says Zoya’s character. One can totally imagine a rocking Clubhouse session on this very topic but sadly the film, with its very confused take on relationships and eagerness to come up with a strong takeaway message, just makes the whole experience quite bizarre. Kunal Kapoor and Zoya Hussain, though, are effortlessly charming and one sure wants to see more of them.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Kunal Kapoor & Zoya Hussain in <em>Ankahi Kahaniya</em>.</p></div>

Kunal Kapoor & Zoya Hussain in Ankahi Kahaniya.

The first film of the anthology is directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari. Pardeep (Abhishek Banerjee) is one of the many migrants trying to survive in the maddening Mumbai crowd. He works in a store that sells clothes and develops feelings for a mannequin. Drawing attention to how lonely life in the big city can be, it’s Abhishek’s sincere, good-natured vibe that makes us sympathise with his predicament. For him, the life-sized doll is a person he talks to and even gives her a name, Pari. He dresses the mannequin, compliments her, goes to the beach lugging it along in an auto and smiles shyly when the mannequin leans on him because of the bumpy ride. It’s an interesting concept and a rather creepy situation to be honest, seeing an actual person relate to a mannequin like that, but the film fails to add texture. Apart from the very obvious commentary on society and the frailty and vulnerability that some feel it never manages to fully grasp the inner workings of Pardeep’s mind and remains a half-baked idea.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Abhishek Banerjee in a still from <em>Ankahi Kahaniya</em>.</p></div>

Abhishek Banerjee in a still from Ankahi Kahaniya.

Ultimately it is Abhishek Chaubey’s film that is the clear winner. It’s the richness and warmth that makes Ankahi Kahaniya worthy.

Ankahi Kahaniya is streaming on Netflix.

Our rating: 2.5 Quints Out of 5

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