Although India is the birthplace of the Kama Sutra, conversations on sex still happen behind closed doors. Albeit there is little progress, we still have a long way to go. Thanks to OTT platforms, there are certain series and films that tackle these taboos in a humorous yet impactful manner to get the message across to a large audience. From the viewpoint of the Indian woman, ranging from strained marriages to compatibility hiccups, Lust Stories (2018) was one such anthology that explored love, sex and relationships in modern India through four short films. Kiara Advani and Neha Dhupia’s masturbation scene in the short film produced by Karan Johar became the highlight back then as it opened the conversation on the importance of female pleasure and the existing pleasure gap–a topic that needed that amplification.
And now, 2023 blesses us with Lust Stories 2 with another set of 4 short films–by filmmakers R Balki, Konkona Sen Sharma, Sujoy Ghosh, and Amit Sharma–and we’re looking forward to the conversations it opens up this time too.
Premarital sex is a subject that Indian society is still embarrassed to talk about. However, Balki’s film explores this topic in an arranged marriage set in a sensitive manner with the help of a stellar cast featuring Neena Gupta, Mrunal Thakur and Angad Bedi. Its official synopsis reads, “The light-hearted quirky drama story talks about the importance of sexual compatibility in a relationship. The story is about how a progressive Dadi (Neena Gupta) implores her granddaughter (Mrunal Thakur) to assess the sexual compatibility between her and her future partner (Angad Bedi) in an arranged marriage setup.”
Ahead of the release of Lust Stories 2, Gupta, Thakur and Bedi got candid with ELLE on everything related to sexual compatibility, and more. Excerpts from the interview below…
ELLE: What was it like for you to play the role of a progressive grandmother having conversations about sex with her granddaughter?
Neena Gupta: When I read the script, I really loved it. I liked the whole idea of it, especially in our country where no one wants to talk about these things. The whole story of bringing a traditional but progressive grandmother–she doesn’t drink or smoke cigarettes, that’s not the kind of progressive grandmother portrayed–she’ll pray to god and do pooja, just like many other grandmothers still do. So when you show this on screen, it adds so much weightage and value. It was very important to have a character like that to talk about a topic like that, in which R Balki has succeeded. And I think people would love it.
ELLE: What was it like to play a role of a granddaughter getting advice on sex from a grandmother?
Mrunal Thakur: There’s so much I’m learning through my work. I did have a conversation with my nani but it isn’t as open as it is in the film. Having said that, trust me, when a child comes to a certain age when it is time for her to marry, the kid should know that the relationship shouldn’t start with a lie. Why should you compromise? If people talk about financial stability and tick all the boxes there, I think sexual compatibility is equally important. And it was lovely working with Neena ji and Angad and the entire cast. The team is fantastic and Balki sir is amazing.
ELLE: How do you feel to be a part of a project that is so women-led?
Angad Bedi: I love it. I’ve made my career based on women characters and I feel that women are the superior being. I do believe in this. Apart from their ability to nurture or give birth, I just feel that men can’t do what women can. Creatively I come from a space where I’ve always looked up to them and I feel that if I can be in a space where I can perform with such wonderful, formidable co-actors, I will gain and that’s what I’ve seen throughout so many projects I’ve worked on. Women bring so much of emotion and they’re such a strong force to reckon with that being in their company, you will excel. So I feel it’s a woman’s world and not a man’s world.
ELLE: What is your opinion on the subject of this film?
Mrunal Thakur: Just like Neena Maam’s character says, “Before you purchase a car, a test drive is important, isn’t it?”
Angad Bedi: But it’s important no. How do you last with someone otherwise? From a man’s perspective, I can say that the first energy that you find is sexual energy. It is the physicality of a person that is appealing. Then obviously you progress to liking various other aspects of their personality. I wouldn’t end up liking these aspects if I wasn’t physically compatible with them. Feeding off each other’s energies, especially the physical energy is something that is so crucial. Otherwise, friendships are always there and you can just be friends and be how you are. Why is there attraction? You have to give that energy enough room to develop further.
Neena Gupta: As far as pre-marital sex is concerned, it’s something that isn’t meant to be good in our generation. People who come from that mindset want a girl who’s a virgin. So in setups like that where people still think like that, people will be shocked at what our film is talking about, but it is important to give them that shock and it is time for us to start an open conversation on this.
ELLE: What are your thoughts on the progression in conversation around sexual compatibility today?
Angad Bedi: It’s so sad that we have to think that it has to move forward. People find it strange to talk about it at some level. Why should it be? To educate, again, people find it awkward and why should it be? Then how will a person growing up or in their adolescence know what to do? There are videos of people in trains behaving awkwardly as there is a certain frustration pent up–they don’t know what to do with it. So it’s very important to channelise your energy in the right direction and the only way that’s going to happen is when you educate, talk and communicate. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s unfortunate that there was no sex education when I was growing up, my parents didn’t talk about it. When I was slightly older my father spoke to me about it. But he said I’ll figure my way out and yes I did. But tomorrow I don’t want to be in that position where it should be awkward with me and my children and it will never be because I will make it a point to explain it to them when I feel the time is right. So it’s natural to like and be drawn towards somebody. It’s just beautiful.
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ELLE: Is there any moment in the film that will become a major conversation starter?
Neena Gupta: The whole film is a conversation starter. The very first scene, in fact.
Mrunal Thakur: It’s more about that word.
Neena Gupta: That word I can’t say right now but it is amazing.
Mrunal Thakur: It’s a surprise so we can’t give it away right now. But that conversation is so beautiful. The way the dialogues are written in this film, we all were cracking up during the scenes. And I would wonder “Seriously? Is she really going to say that?” Those moments are really fun. And there’s one more scene where dadi is explaining to me why sex before marriage is important and how she discovered it and her story. It’s very tricky to put it in words. But all I can say is the dialogues are written so well that it’s going to make the audience smile, giggle, make them feel shy and make them want to dig their faces inside their blanket.
Neena Gupta: But in spite of all this, the audience will not be embarrassed.
Lust Stories 2 drops on June 29 on Netflix. You can watch the trailer here.