Tuesdays and Fridays

The Pakistani audiences’ desperation to watch anything Bollywood is, at times, appalling and pitiful. Take into account exhibit A: Tuesdays and Fridays, a movie that sets a record low-bar for dumb, amateur cinema that’s trending at the fourth spot on Netflix’s charts.

Released this February, and produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali (what was the guy thinking?), this plodding story fixes its gaze firmly on Sia (2014’s first runner-up Miss India, Jhataleka Malhotra), a young lawyer who lives in Mumbai but flies to London for long stretches of time, because she’s so good that her firm allows her to work online.

Her specialty is handling clients in the entertainment industry and, being the only good-looking heroine-type at the office, she is quickly wooed by an A-list celebrity client. A bit into their dating period, Sia slaps him on the face in the middle of a media gathering, and the clueless press brands her the “mysterious girl” who ridiculed the actor. Yes, in case you’re wondering, the press doesn’t investigate because the writer, Taranveer Singh — who is also the director — deemed it a trifling point in his story.

Now one may wonder: as a lawyer, wouldn’t it have been better if she had called off the fling without hurting her client’s image in the press? Well, the writer does provide an explanation very late in the film, and its dumber — and more trifling — than one imagines.

The Sanjay Leela Bhansali-produced Tuesdays and Fridays is over-run by trite writing and uninspired direction, whereas Karan Johar’s adult shorts anthology Ajeeb Daastaans may not be groundbreaking but has some magnetic performances

Anyways, her knight in shining armour is, again, another new client Varun (Anmol Dhillon, yesteryear actress Poonam Dhillon’s son — what is with her and her clients anyways?), a supposedly good-looking catch who sweeps in and saves the day for women.

Varun writes novels with bad endings that producers want to change, because he hasn’t found true love. I’m guessing that part, because we never see him write anything in the film, but he does sleep around with women one wouldn’t take home to meet one’s mother. For him, true love doesn’t exist…yet. We all know there’s a ‘yet’ coming by the end of the film.

Varun is a swell guy because the film often gives him scenes that, purportedly, push that image across (they’re written that way, but executed without finesse). As a friend of Sia’s, whom he meets again in London, where (surprise, surprise) he also lives, Varun helps change Sia’s step-sister’s intention to lose her virginity to a dweeb.

Sia, despite being close to her step-sis, has a non-existent relationship with her father (Parmeet Sethi), who left them to marry another woman; her mother (Nikki Walia), meanwhile, has finally decided to remarry a nice guy. Somehow Sia and Varun decide to test their growing attraction, and the heroine, being the clever lawyer, puts down a few rules that favour her end of the relationship. The salient points of their contract being: they will only date exclusively on Tuesdays and Fridays, and are free to be with anyone the rest of the week. There would be no smooching until the third date and, of course, seeing how progressive India has become, one can guess where that takes a relationship these days — especially in film.

Sia’s friend (Nayan Shukla) has always been pushing her to be more physical with guys; matters of the heart will follow…or they may not — and that’s the gist of this film. The ‘Tuesdays and Fridays’ deal is valid for seven weeks, after which the Gen-Z youngsters (they’re not millennials) can dissolve the relationship.

A few backstories are resolved, but they don’t make us feel anything for the characters. With trite writing, uninspired direction, passable performances and bad music, one wonders about the Pakistani audiences’ taste — or lack thereof.

Ajeeb Daastaans

Karan Johar, it seems, has found a personal niche in exploring short subjects and anthologies. Ajeeb Daastaans, produced by K-Jo, and trending on the number one spot on Netflix’s Pakistani charts, is an almost two-and-a-half-hour long set of four stories on love, lust, anguish and jealousy.

The first story is Majnu (director: Shashank Khaitan, Dhadak, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania), that unravels the tale of a landlord (Jaideep Ahlawat), his promiscuous, sexually pent-up wife with whom he hasn’t consummated his marriage (Fatima Sana Sheikh), and the business school-educated son of their driver (Armaan Ralhan), whom she woos.

The second tale, Khilauna (director: Raj Mehta, Good Newwz), is about Meenal (Nushrat Bharucha), a cunning housemaid who uses her womanly charms to beguile the secretary of a rich man living in a posh locality (Maneesh Verma) into giving her a job at his place. The secretary’s wife is expecting, so the house needs someone to do the chores. The job ticks off the local laundry guy (Abhishek Banerjee), who also happens to be Meenal’s lover (judging from how she treats him, he isn’t her friend). Meenal, however, has a one-sided agenda for wooing the secretary: she wants to restore electricity to her hut. A silent witness to everything in this thriller is Meenal’s school-going younger sister.

The third story is Geeli Pucchi (director: Neeraj Ghaywan, Masaan, Sacred Games) about a hardworking Dalit (backward caste) female worker at a factory (Konkona Sen Sharma) who doesn’t get much opportunity to rise through the ranks, and her somewhat innocent superior (Aditi Rao-Hyderi), with whom she shares a love-hate relationship with strong bisexual overtones.

The last of the lot — also the best-acted and directed — is Ankahi (director Kayoze Irani, Boman Irani’s son; the pudgy friend from Student of the Year). This half-silent story is about a wife (Shefali Shah) who often fights with her husband (Tota Roy Chowdhury) because he isn’t reaching out to their teenage daughter (Sara Arjun), who is losing her hearing. Fed up with the fights, she befriends and then has a sexual fling with a deaf photographer (Manav Kaul) with a lively personality.

Anthologies and shorts are the latest trend in both Pakistan and India these days, but oftentimes they’re ill-conceived or hardly satisfactory; surprisingly the ones in this film are intelligently crafted with deep subtexts of angst, self-deprecation, envy and lust. In almost all stories, one feels a well-timed boiling point approaching beforehand, but the big reveals — at least for me — are often easily deducible early on.

One also sees a strong agenda of giving in to one’s carnal desires being pushed in Bollywood fare these days — carnal desires, mind you, that have nothing to do with love and romance. In a film such as Ajeeb Daastaans, where stories have adult themes, this is somewhat acceptable. However, it’s not that their inclusion — sometimes graphically displayed — is really necessary to convincingly tell these tales.

The anthology, overall, is fine — especially because of the magnetic performances in Ankahi — but it’s not groundbreaking, or even that novel.

Streaming now on Netflix, Tuesdays and Fridays is rated 13+ (really, Netflix? I’d give it a 16+ for adult themes), while Ajeeb Dastaans is rated 18+ for sexual content and language.

Published in Dawn, ICON, May 2nd, 2021


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