At the time of writing this, Dus Kahaniyaan has failed miserably at the box office. In the fact on opening day, the theater had a grand total of 12 patrons, which had reduced to 6 by the end of it. The question is, how can 10 wildly different (short) films be so bad that none of them manage to give the audience a glimmer of hope that the next one might be better than the last? Or is the question – are Indian audiences ready for a change of format, for a little out-of-the-box cinema or would they rather cling on to tried and tested formulaic cinema: 3 hours, many songs, happy endings, bang for the buck? Perhaps it’s a combination of both. Maybe they are ready for a new, experimental cinema – but when you experiment with films that range from bad to worse, no audience – however primed or regressive – will endorse it. Going in reverse order from the worst films to the bad films, let’s see how each of them fared.
10. Sex on the Beach – directed by Apoorva Lakhia
Easily the worst film. Ever. In any format. Extremely simplistic, supposed to be a horror. Instead of getting one scared, it makes you angry. The very basic tenets on shooting horror are out of the window. Lakhia should be banned from making movies after this. He has absolutely NO idea how to direct anything. Forget about it. Eat your popcorn after watching this or risk throwing up on your companion who would have left anyway by now.
09. Lovedale – directed by Jasmeet Dhodi
Dhodi has gotten a chance of a lifetime and he’s mucked it up so bad that he’ll probably be stuck be an associate for all times. This smart-alecky, fifteen minute quickie version of what usually takes makers 2 hours to get across is so bad – that it proves a point we’ve always stood by – simply assisting on movies is not qualification enough to make a film of your own. Assistant directors never, ever take a creative call and it clearly reflects in Lovedale – an asinine story starring Anupam Kher (in his worst screen appearance), Aftab Shivdasani (can you believe it?), and some other people. Death by tackiness above all else.
08. Strangers in the Night – directed by Sanjay Gupta
Sanjay Gupta comes in at No. 8 (even though the sum of all his films is lesser than each part and calls for them to be ranked as low as possible). This absolute nonsensical tale involves an uppity couple (Mahesh Manjrekar and Neha Dhupia, *&$^@!) revealing secrets to each other from their past. For some inane reason Dhupia has this serious expression on her face which has nothing to do with the story she narrates. And what’s supposed to be a sexual encounter of the hawas kind, turns out to be the worst, 80s style cliché involving Muslim kids running from sword-wielding Hindu extremists. No background, no nothing, just pure sensationalism for the heck of shock value. Yuck! This is the most de-sensitized piece amongst the ten.
07. Zahir – directed by Sanjay Gupta
Very much in the vain of (08) – Zahir is backgroundless, setupless, logicless, piece of amateur filmmaking that only works towards a ridiculous twist in the end. Many questions remain unanswered – Why would Dia Mirza be so rich and inclined towards poetry? Why is Manoj Bajpai explained so well in comparison? Why does Mirza keep saying – ‘I have to tell you something, I have to tell you something, I have to tell you something’ but never does utter that one crucial word? Huh? Watch it to believe it.
06. Gubbare – directed by Sanjay Gupta
Extremely predictable. One minute in and you know exactly what next. Defeats the purpose and form of a short. But Gupta is remarkably restrained in directing this one. Nana Patekar is missing his spark. Bore.
05. Matrimony – directed by Sanjay Gupta
Okay. Not too bad. Missing a solid punch, but as the first story in the film, eases the audience into understanding the format. Mandira is effective. Story works on paper for sure.
04. Rise and Fall – directed by Sanjay Gupta
See the pattern here. SG and his lackeys have come 7 in a row now. And this film encapsulates it all. Nothing remarkably original about the story of a mirrored reality of the past and present in the lives of two gangsters, Rise and Fall is all style and little substance. Still, Gupta’s best effort in the lot – since he’s clearly home with the genre.
03. High on the Highway – directed by Hansal Mehta
This one worked because it was non-linear, not specific, had some great acting (Jimmy Shergill and Masumeh Makhija), and good treatment, and above all did not entirely depend on the twist in the tale to work (there was one – but it was rubbish). It broke rules, and was quite bold. And that’s why it wasn’t as bad as the others. But it still wasn’t good cinema or anything.
02. Puranmaasi – directed by Meghna Gulzar
The subtle sensibilities of this film, hit you the hardest. It’s also the only film with a rural setting – and the story is a superb, superb setup – albeit a little contrived. Too many liberties, an inexplicable last 30 seconds – and you’re left wondering what could’ve been. We needed to see a confrontation between mother, daughter, and villagers. It never came.
01. Rice Plate – directed by Rohit Roy
Yes, so this is the best of the lot. For many reasons too – Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah light up the screen with their prowess. Truly, they make every other top lining actor in Dus Kahaniyaan look like a bunch of rag tags. Azmi’s rendition of a South Indian granny is quite spot on. For this alone, Dus Kahaniyaan might be worth your time. Of course, the primary reason that this film doesn’t deserve to be separated from the rest is because in true Sanjay Gupta style – it’s a complete rip-off, this time from Cannes winner, Lunch Date.
So there you are. Except for some credit to Rice Plate and Puranmaasi, Dus Kahaniyaan is essentially a collection of amateur shorts spliced together for a private screen of friends and family and nothing more. It’s a messy experiment that might turn viewers off in the near future from watching non-mainstream cinema. But considering that nobody is entering a theater showing DK, there might be hope still.