This anthology promised plenty. It delivers very little emotional or creative satisfaction for those who look for that sort of a thing in their omnibus experiences.
To be fair, Stories On The Next Page is not even an anthology. There are three stories which altogether wrap up in less than an hour. The first story featuring Abhishek Bannerjee and Ditipriya Roy is so scrappy I mistook the final fadeout to be the cutoff point for the prologue. By the time I figured out the fact of the fiction, the anthology has already moved on with a nervous shuffle.
All the three stories are wordy experiences, restricted to one location more for budgetary than creative reasons. In the first story Balloo and Mowgli the two actors speak in Bengali more because the characters are Bengalis than to give a cultural placement to the actors.
In the second story Reunion, Bhupendra Jadawat confronts his lingering demons at an old boys’ meet where the erstwhile campus bully (Namit Das) shows up as a successful author. His bullying is held responsible for the bullied man’s relative non-success in life. The shrink’s couch is missing. So is any attempt to analyse the protagonists’ psyche beyond the immediate conversation. The storytelling is so shaky that the two actors seem to be more in the rehearsal mode than the final take.
The third story Sunshower is of some interest. It features two veteran actresses Renuka Shahane and Rajeshwari Sachdev as long-separated companions who reunite for a meal , arranged by the former’s son after the husband is conveniently deceased.
The set-up smells like what it is: a set up. It is hard to believe that any son would send his mother on a lesbian date soon after his father’s death. Renuka Shahane who plays Mrs Iyer looks like anything but Mrs Iyer. Rajeshwari Sachdev, always dependable, tries hard to make sense of her character. But the villain here is the script which makes no space for the characters to breathe in peace.
Good intentions do not always breed a productive environment. This “micro anthology” is a so devoid of a valid raison d’etre it feels like a hurried con-job which it probably isn’t. We will never know.
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