Anthology films blew up during the pandemic. Streaming platforms were churning them out at an alarming rate. It’s not that it's poor or forgettable but Lantrani – a collection of three shorts – is a reminder of why that moment passed.
It’s because the writer, Durgesh Singh (Gullak), is the same – and his TVF sensibilities somewhat swallow the distinct voices of the makers. The three directors are acclaimed alternative voices from Bengali (Kaushik Ganguly), Punjabi (Gurvinder Singh) and Assamese cinema (Bhaskar Hazarika).
The weakest of the lot. It’s almost fitting that this is indeed a pandemic story. The film unfolds like a skit-level social satire. It tries too hard to be quirky – whether it’s the idiosyncratic employees or the narrative punchlines.
It is cursed with wordplay too, but its world – which often looks like a Panchayat episode – is a little less awkward. The director struggles to navigate tragicomic territory, straddling the fence between levity and gravity. Some of the design is clumsy.
It does a better job of balancing absurdity with despair. Famous funnyman Johnny Lever finds a pitch that suggests he isn’t bumbling so much as decent – a trait that, towards the end, provides a glimpse of an underutilized dramatic actor.
But pretending to be positive is worse than succumbing to cynicism – denial is the deformed sibling of hope. There goes my resolution. Perhaps it’s the only way to round off an anthology of mismatched vignettes.