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Ghost Stories Is A Terrific Opportunity Lost To Self indulgence

 Ghost Stories (Netflix)

Starring: Janhvi Kapoor, Surekha Sikri, Vishal Verma, Shobita Dhulipula, Sukant Goel, Avinash Tiwary, Mrunal Thakur

Directed by:  Zoya Akhtar,Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan  Johar

Rating: ** ½ (two and a  half stars)

After  hearing  the  distinguished  quartet of directors and its excitable cast raving giggling and squirming  about the eerie scary experience  they went through , Ghost Stories  comes as  bit  of  a letdown.

No moments  of  epiphany this time, like the one when Kiara Advani shuddered  , and not because the ground shook, in Lust Stories.   The closest this  anthology of  spooked sensations comes  to a scene  of revelation  is when Mrunal Kulkarni(looking impressively sensual  in  the Karan Johar segment) acts out a near-orgasm while her husband  does the  needful.

The  moment is interrupted by the husband’s dead granny  making an unwanted appearance. Johar’s story has a sense  of humour, quite unlike the  other  three grim sullen long-faced  stories where  the cheerless characters shot in  dingy interiors ,  are drawn into a dungeon of darkness and despair , only to be pulled  out of the  horror chamber by some  inept writing.

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Clearly , these directors are  not at home  with horror. Sadly we are. And  not quite as immersed  in the home-viewing  exercise as Netflix would  like us to be. Not  like we were  in Lust Stories.Oh well, every  experience can’t be  The  Irishman.  

The  four directors  of Ghost  Stories  want to shock us with images and visuals which  would be deemed  taboo in cinema.But Shobita(doing a Radhika Apte in the Anurag Kashyap story) chewing on  raw  fowl meat looking like she has just been rejected  the  next Kashyap  feature, and  the characters  of Dibakar Banerjee’s dystopian holocaustic  drama eating  human flesh(chewing an obviously fake human hand is  more humour than horror) are not the  evening of chill spill that we  expected.

The  first story directed by  Zoya Akhtar, has the  lovely Janhvi Kapoor struggling with the  role of  a young desperate  caregiver  to a senile  bedridden  woman(Surekha Sikri). In  between Sameera’s   bouts  of cleaning potty and su-su(her description),  her boyfriend drops in for a  bit  of  bang-bang. 

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 I really want to know why Janhvi is cast in this story.She is clearly not comfortable . And really,  the gifted Vishal Verma  in a  walk-on part. Gratitude  to  Zoya for Gully Boy?

Anurag Kashyap’s pretentious  black-and-white story has a smartly  wise performance  by a child actor (Zachary Braz) who reminded me  of  Haley  Joel Osment in The  Sixth Sense.  As the possessive insecure  boy makes some eerie  moves  to get rid of his aunt’s unborn child, the  story keeps shifting its perceptions  until we are left with  no coherent plot, only  a string of images providing shock therapy to an audience too bored to protest.

Dibakar Banerjee’s zombie  story  is unnecessarily  gruesome and ruinously selfimportant. Dibakar wants  to combine horror with  politics when in  fact in presentday they are the one and  the same.The bleak barren inertia of a town taken over by creepy cannibals could have shown the  uneasy relationship between  the have-nots  and the power brokers. Instead it’s just a zombie movie masquerading as a political statement.

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 Finally  the ghost-friendly Karan Johar segment where Atul Tiwary is seen  playing peek-a-boo with his  grandma when he is not going down on his new wife. Strangely,the couple, probably not  clued into  porn jargon,  calls  it a ‘blow job’. Maybe they meant the job that this ostensibly ominous  omnibus blows  up in our face. One of  the biggest offences  committed here is the wastage of talent. Heeba Shah, Pavail Gulati, Vishal Varma , Kitu Gidwani and many other accomplished actors struggle to be noticed in walk-on parts.

Finally the  veteran octogenarian  Jyoti Subhash shows  up as  a ghost using the ‘F’ word. For me that  was  moment of epiphany in Ghost Stories, not on a  par with Kiara Advani’s erotic eruption in Lust Stories.But  anyway.

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