R Balki opens up on making a ‘lust story for the whole family’


R Balki’s short film sets the tone for Netflix India anthology Lust Stories 2. While the other three films enter darker territories, Balki’s is decidedly lighthearted. Starring Neena Gupta as a grandmother who dishes out sermons on sexual compatibility, Balki’s film is, as he insists, a ‘lust story for families.’

R Balki says elderly women like Neena Gupta in Lust Stories are very progressive
R Balki says elderly women like Neena Gupta in Lust Stories are very progressive

(Also Read: Lust Stories 2 review: With more hits than misses, Netflix delivers another winner on desi sexuality)

In an exclusive interview, R Balki speaks about the portrayal of lust in his filmography, why there are no lovemaking scenes in his segment and why, unlike other directors in the anthology, he wanted to tell a lighthearted story about lust. Excerpts:

The portrayal of elderly women in your films has always been very interesting. Zohra Sehgal in Paa who pushes her 64-year-old son to a gym, Arundhati Nag in Paa whose nickname is Bum “because she’s got a big bum,” and most recently, Saranya Povannan in Chup and Neena Gupta in Lust Stories 2. Why are all your dadis and nanis so old and wild? Affectionate yet eccentric?

They’re not wild, they’re normal. We all have a very cliched view of our mothers and grandmothers. Actually, just because they don’t appear so cool and act so cool doesn’t mean they’re not cool in their thought. They’re very progressive. They’re saying a lot of things people want to hear. It’s their behavioural norm, but their thoughts and opinions of relationships and everything else is very very progressive. You’ll be surprised to know, after the initial bit of shame, if you actually sit with your grandmother, you’ll find them saying, “So what? What’s the big deal there?” They’ll be saying it much more casually than middle-aged people. Elderly people have lived life. They know it’s all a charade, they know life is short. They’re just held back by the societal restrictions. They don’t want to embarrass the people around them. But they’re very progressive within themselves.

Were your grandparents or mother as cool in real life?

Yes! My grandfather was 85 when something happened in my life and my mother asked him to talk to me. She thought I’d listen to my grandfather, but he told me, “Listen, you don’t have to make a big show about such things. You do what you want to do. Take people with you, they’ll come along. I understand what you’re trying to do.” For them, they have to break their norms. But they all understand. It’s all about the way you do things. Do what you want but don’t rebel for the sake of rebelling. What my grandfather said was very progressive. He used to look very conservative, used to do puja-path every day. But he was an extremely progressive man.

My mother also looks very conservative, talks very conservatively. But she’s open to a lot of things. She can digest everything. I made my mother watch this (Lust Stories 2) and she laughed her guts out. And she’s 83 years old. You know, cinema is all about not embodying people how they are, but about how they could behave if they could speak like that. It’s always ‘I want to be’ instead of how ‘I am.’ I don’t want to be like the dadi if there isn’t some part of that already in me.

Why was it important for the dadi to otherwise not appear or behave modern? She’s dressed in simple saris, speaks in a certain way, shuns ‘healthy’ samosas made of sweet potatoes and whose default mode is praying.

All I wanted to show was that dadis are normal people. You don’t have to look so hip or cool or whatever. But she’s just speaking common sense. She’s saying why are two people getting married if physical relationship is the core of everything. Yes, there’s love but try having love without lust, it’s not possible. See, 80 percent of marriages are still arranged marriages in this country. And we look at horoscopes, their families but we don’t even think for a minute what if there’s a sexual problem between two people, how will they survive. All we’re saying is let them know each other, let them go out and experience each other in every way.

Your film is a companion piece to Karan Johar’s segment from the first Lust Stories, in which Vicky Kaushal and Kiara Advani’s characters have an arranged marriage but he can’t understand her need for ‘Mount Fuji’ as the dadi in your story says. Do you see this parallel?

(Laughs) No, I wasn’t looking at it like that. But I just wanted to do a lust story that the whole family can watch. Families are created through lust also na? Only love can’t create a family, right? If they can’t watch it together, I’d be like this is what has created all of you (laughs).

Is this the reason why there were no sex scenes between the lead characters? They were only suggestive.

I really set out to make a ‘family lust story.’ I wanted it to be like a real home. You can do it behind closed doors. You don’t have to show it to people, but the topics have to be addressed.

It’s not the first time you’ve portrayed lust this way. I still can’t forget Amitabh Bachchan buying a condom when the chemist calls him ‘chacha’ or when he lies down in a field and asks Tabu if they should do it there, in Cheeni Kum (2006). Or even when Vidya Balan and Abhishek Bachchan go around looking for a place to have sex on a train in Paa (2009). How has your depiction of lust evolved since then?

I believe that because we have guidelines in our cinema, but they’re not about addressing certain issues. It’s about showing certain things like steamy scenes. So I just thought within the ambit of what we have, how do we say what we want to say. I don’t want my film to get an A certificate just because there’s a steamy scene and I refuse to cut it. The point isn’t about the scene. It’s about… yes, I need to have sex. Sometimes, something not shown is also quite steamy no?



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