The highly anticipated sequel to its 2018 predecessor, Lust Stories 2, continues to explore the topic of sex within realistic circumstances and among likable individuals. However, the picture, like its predecessor, suffers from an unrealistic and incoherent storyline at times. Nonetheless, two notable chapters grab listeners with their brilliance, while the remaining two provide a pleasant touch of humor.
The second part of Lust Stories 2 is directed by Konkona Sen Sharma, who made her directorial debut in 2016 with “A Death in the Gunj.” Sen, who previously appeared in Neeraj Ghaywan’s thought-provoking inter-caste lesbian romance in Netflix’s “Ajeeb Daastaans,” addresses class divides in a sexually voyeuristic setting. Sen’s approach to the subject matter is more sensitive and nuanced than Zoya Akhtar’s in the first Lust Stories.
Tillotama Shome plays a successful but desperately single corporate employee in the short film, a change from her work as a domestic assistant. She unexpectedly arrives home early one fatal day to find her housekeeper (played by the dependably great Amruta Subash from “Sacred Games”) engaging in intimate actions with a stranger on her own bed. Shome’s heroine becomes a voyeur, reveling in the illegal images playing before her eyes. Sen digs bravely into the protagonist’s moral quandary, however, the examination of voyeurism becomes difficult within the limits of a short film.
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While Karan Johar’s first Lust Stories ended with an upbeat investigation of sex stigmas, Lust Stories 2 takes an unexpectedly traumatizing turn. The last part, directed by Amit Sharma of “Badhaai Ho” fame, takes place in rural Rajasthan and stars Kajol as a lady who is sexually abused on a regular basis by her drunken husband, played menacingly by Kumud Mishra. Kajol depicts the emotional load of a wife and mother successfully, while Mishra plays the abuser.
Despite its laudable intentions, the change between chapters feels abrupt and unconnected. Amit Sharma’s interpretation of “lust” provides a distressing depiction of a home in which sex becomes a weapon of patriarchal control, but it struggles to find a cohesive position within the larger story. The surprising disclosures and emotional twists eventually feel predictable, following in the footsteps of Ghaywan’s prior work.
Overall, Lust Stories 2 is a collection of stories that mix realism with provocative. While some chapters succeed in the execution and depth of investigation of human impulses, others convey a feeling of unrealized potential.