Parents' Guide to

Ajeeb Daastaans

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Anthology examines Indian social issues; language, violence.

Movie NR 2021 142 minutes
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Like Parasite, bobbing between greatness and questionable shock value, Ajeeb Daastaans is an ambitious expose of a way of life in India in which the poor serve the rich and privileged. Using drama to illustrate a repressive social order, the directors and writers mostly unveil the interactions and relations between the devastatingly poor and the rich who live nearby. The Lover is short on character development, and the supposed shock ending feels abrupt and underplotted. Toy pits a cliched, scheming underdog against a cliched, villainous stereotypical man of wealth, with no real emotional impact. Sloppy Kisses at least attempts to draw fully-realized characters and to suggest that in India upward mobility is a nearly hopeless dream for those at the bottom. Unspoken is the film's most conventional story about what loveless marriages can drive people toward. Two winning actors, Shefali Shah and Manav Kaul, make this irresistible and moving.

The other episodes dwell on caste and gender prejudices. Women are rare in certain workplaces. Lower caste members, identified by certain surnames, are relegated to physical labor and rarely have desk jobs despite high qualifications. Arranged marriages merge families of money and power to profit parents, but often leave the bride and groom miserable. Homosexuality is a dark secret that ruins lives. Corrupt police protect the wealthy and support unfair practices against lower caste members. Higher caste members invite lower caste members in for tea but don't serve them with the nice china. While this doesn't break new ground, it may be an eye-opener for Americans unfamiliar with Indian customs.

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