Verdict: The films manage to give you the heebie-jeebies without invoking much fear.
Stream it on Netflix.
After Bombay Talkies and Lust Stories, Bollywood’s golden filmmaking foursome are back. This time, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, and Karan Johar have ventured into the horror category – a genre that they’ve not dabbled in much in the past and has always been considered a risk in the Hindi film industry. Each has presented their own version of Ghost Stories, ranging from mildly spooky to outrightly creepy. While their previous anthology film managed to create a storm strong enough to be recognized by the International Emmy Awards, this one hardly lights a match in comparison.
What’s Ghost Stories About:
Zoya Akhtar takes the lead with a film about a nurse (Jhanvi Kapoor) who goes to the Malik house to care for the bedridden elder (Surekha Sikri). As she settles in, she realizes that there are weird things happening in the house and there’s more to her patient than she bargained for.
Anurag Kashyap’s story revolves around an expectant mother (Sobhita Dhulipala). Her pregnancy gets harder by the day wherein she gets visions of abortions that are fueled by her jealous nephew. She eventually goes paranoid, morphing into a monster that is obsessed with her baby.
Dibakar Banerjee uses a meta-narrative to present a zombie-like feast. A man (Sukant Goel) is visiting a tiny village in rural India, which appears to be abandoned. He takes shelter with some kids who tell him about the village’s history, which is plagued with man-eating monsters from the big town. The villagers have all been ‘eaten’ and they’re the only survivors.
Karan Johar’s story takes place in a grand old house, where the family matriarch has passed away but her spirit still visits the family, especially its youngest son Dhruv (Avinash Tiwary). When Ira (Mrunal Thakur) gets married to Dhruv, she finds it difficult to adjust to her husband’s habit of speaking to his dead grandmother and decides to put an end to the madness.
Zoya Akhtar’s story brings out one of the better performances of newbie Jhanvi Kapoor but it is Surekha Sikri who steals the show here with her scary look and performance. The story runs without many scares except for the climax scene, where find yourself mildly surprised. In comparison, Anurag Kashyap’s short is successful in giving you the heebie-jeebies with its visually revolting scenes, which Sobhita Dhulipala manages to pull off with ease. Spoiler alert: If you’re not a fan of blood, skip this story altogether. Dibakar Banerjee is the only one who manages to present a story that leaves any kind of impression. His meta-narrative is both relevant and engaging, where Gulshan Devaiah delivers a short but class act and Sukant Goel is impressive too. Karan Johar’s story, in comparison, is both silly and dull but Jyoti Subhash as the ‘creepy granny’ stands out. Overall, Ghost Stories seems like a project that could have been better if avoided.
What Could’ve Been Better:
The Indian audience loves watching horror movies but Ghost Stories barely manages to invoke any kind of real fear. Neither does it aggravate many phobias (except maybe Anurag Kashyap’s story) nor does the overall narrative feel pertinent. Dibakar Banerjee’s story stands out and could have rather been presented as a singular short film.
Why You Should Watch:
While Ghost Stories hasn’t enjoyed the same kind of positive word as its predecessor, it will still be discussed in online film circuits for a few days to come. You might not want to miss out on this anthology film. If you can sit through the first two shorts, the third one is worth your time and you can skip the last altogether.