Netflix’s ‘Lust Stories’ compiles the stories of four women and their relationships. The film takes a look at contemporary relationships as they struggle with traditional values and stereotypes. It highlights the emotions that intertwine people as their love life develops. In 120 minutes, the movie shows the individuality among women, the stereotypes that they break and the emergence of unconventional relationships.
The student-teacher relationship
As Kalindi Ma’am sniffs Natasha’s clothes and accuses her student of being in a relationship with a girl his age, we see a woman who is older than Tejas (the student) enveloped in overwhelming jealousy. Her obsession, which perhaps is borderline unhealthy, sheds the veil on the stereotype that is imposed on teachers. After the first night with Tejas, the viewer sees a paranoid Kalindi, who even makes a voice documentation with Tejas that the relationship they had was consensual.
However, the story twists from there on, Kalindi becomes infatuated with Tejas and stalks him and classmate Natasha. During the end when she scolds him for having a normal relationship, it finally dawns on Tejas that there is something between them and it is not only physical. But when he says that he will leave everything for her, she retorts and says that she is married.
Kalindi thus portrays a woman who cannot figure out the relationship she must take on with Tejas, she is in a confused state which grows worse as she cannot share her blooming relation with anyone else. In cut scenes, she talks about her husband, Mihir and how he mocks her inexperience and tells her to ‘live at least once’. Her inexperience with relationships, the absence of Mihir and the substitution with Tejas may seem comical. However these also emphasize that Kalindi is alone, and her emotions are in a scattered state. She may not have love for Tejas and it might be just obsession, but because of the pressure that Natasha’s presence and society creates (teachers cannot love their students) it fuels her subconscious to do just that.
More than household work
The sense of an individual and use of symbolism in the second story is very striking. It shows the emotional erosion of a female lover.
This is parallel to the cinematography which speeds down compared to the initial fast pace. Sudha works as a maid for Ajit but they are also engaged in a carnal relationship. After finishing with Ajit on the bed, she moves on to mop the floor, clean dishes, cook and do rest of the housework, with very little verbal contact between the two. Their routine is shattered when Ajit’s family comes and talks about his marriage. Sudha becomes broken as she sees the bride-to-be. Just like her own situation, Sudha feels that she can only take scraps of love, a physical relationship or even materials. As she waits for the elevator, another maid gleefully shows her hand-me-down kameez, and Subha eyes a rip in the shoulder. Her friend declares that the dress can be worn with a dupatta and Sudha realizes that just like the dress, her relationship was also under a veil and is no longer needed.
A complex cuckoldry
A conventional relationship would not sustain with the involvement of an illicit affair. However, cuckolding the husband with is his best friend further complicates the triangle. The wife Reena tells her husband that in their 13 years of marriage, she was excited a mere 11 months!
Reena is very much like Edna Pontellier, who is the protagonist of Kate Chopin’s novella ‘The Awakening’. Reena has lessening interest for her husband Salman who is extremely workaholic. Also like Edna the thought of her children stressed her mentally in her relationship. She tells Salman that he does not want ‘a wife but a mother’. This builds the notion that she is tired of her family and there is more to a woman than just being a mother.
The cuckoldry is complex, as Salman does not want his best friend to know that he is aware of his wife’s relationship with him. But Sudhir (his best friend) does know that Salman knows. In the end, we find the husband wife leaving, to their old lives. The mutual understanding or the lack of it in these relationships makes this system work.
A mutual understanding
The fourth story transforms the idea of the stereotypical woman. Megha went to an all girls’ school and now as a teacher laments on her lost youth, which is also the case of her prospective husband Paras who also has little experience with women.
However, she soon marries and Paras is oblivious to Megha’s sexual dissatisfaction. From the first night of their marriage to nights that follow, although Paras is satisfied but each time he leaves Megha unfulfilled and even bewildered. The story is successful in showing that men and women should have open discussions about everything in their lives and not just about raising children or finances.
Therefore, ‘Lust Stories’ intertwines drama, heartache, and comedy with insightful realizations. The four stories staring from Kalindi’s paranoia, Sudha’s sorrow, a three party affair to Megha’s dissatisfaction make for an anthology that emphasize the individual aspects of women and breaks down the stereotypes.