Anurag Kashyap and his producing partner and Girl Friday Guneet Monga are presenting Shorts, the latest omnibus of vignettes about urban living, and it shows.

The five segments in the 88-minute Shorts have been made by assistant directors on Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur. Actors from the Kashyap repertory, who featured in that two-part movie, flit in and out of Shorts, while one of the stories features film-maker Vasan Bala, whose Peddlers has been produced by Monga, as well as Monga. The films run over ground previously trodden by Kashyap, such as abusive men, exploited women, anxious migrants, difficult fathers, sexually expressive girlfriends, and harsh urban landscapes. Only Kashyap, whose talents include acting, is missing from the picture.

The stories are disparate, but at least four are connected by the promise of a better life. Or should that be fantasy? Despite the realism, grittiness and seriousness on display, four of the five stories aim for poignant and uplifting conclusions that undermine their impact.

Huma Qureshi in ‘Shorts’

If Sujata and Shor perch on the margins of Mumbai, Siddhart Gupt’s Epilogue and Anirban Roy’s Audacity wade into the middle-class drawing room. In Epilogue, Richa Chadha is back to playing the seduction game. This time, the target of her attention is her boyfriend, whom she lathers with attention until breaking point. The self-consciously arty short is situated between fantasy and reality, and aims to jar viewers with grating sound effects, intense close-ups, and repetitive actions. It’s almost charming. In the Kolkata-set Audacity, about a father and his vengeful Goth-punk daughter, a thin, O Henry-esque idea is stretched to breaking point. As is Rohit Pandey’s Mehfuz, in which Nawazuddin Siddiqui turns up as a cremation ground worker dealing with an unusual spate of bodies. Siddiqui is as dependable as ever, but even he can’t make the underdeveloped idea of hope in an age of chaos stick.

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