LSD 2 review: Digital dystopia gets raw, real, and entertaining

Karishma Jangid
New Update
LSD 2 review: Digital dystopia gets raw, real, and entertaining

The sequel to 'Love Sex aur Dhokha', Dibakar Banerjee's 'Love Sex aur Dhokha 2' takes us through love, identity, and exploitation in the digital era. 

About thirty minutes into this one, a man next to me in the theatre shouted, "What movie is this? What's happening? I can't watch it," yet he stayed until the end. I don’t blame him, Love Sex aur Dhokha 2 is somehow odd. I don't mean it's bad, it's different. On the surface, it is raunchy and scandalous, but there's a lot more going on beneath the surface, and it's fascinating enough to unpack.

In Dibakar Banerjee’s digital world, the realities of validation and exploitation take centre stage and are explored in three loosely connected stories. In a reality TV show called Truth ya Naach, Noor (Paritosh Tiwari) convinces her hesitant mother to join to gain an edge. But her being a transwoman is disapproved by her mother and exploited by the show’s creators. Viewers treat her life as mere content, offering diverse opinions. Noor becomes complicit in her exploitation, driven by her desire to succeed. Kullu Vishwakarma (Bonita Rajpurohit), a metro station support staff, is found injured after an assault. Her boss Lovina (Swastika Mukherjee), with a saviour complex, takes legal action to support Kullu. But tensions arise when Kullu insists Lovina understand her life before helping. 18-year-old YouTuber Shubham Narang (Abhinav Singh) faces a crisis when compromising pictures are leaked during a live stream by a troll. These images thrust upon him an identity that he alleges isn’t his own. Despite his efforts to reclaim his true self, the world of likes and followers stands in opposition.

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While humanity has existed for eons, the challenges posed by the digital age are relatively new and often overwhelming. However, Banerjee's unique voice brings a raw, real, and thoroughly entertaining perspective to the digital realm. The screenplay, by Banerjee, Prateek Vats (known for "Eeb Allay Oo"), and Shubham, is richly layered and even refreshingly original. It juggles multiple perspectives without losing clarity; sure, it's complex, but not chaotic. The film's commitment to diverse representation is praiseworthy for its authenticity and lack of preachiness. We encounter a Bhojpuri transwoman, a Dalit transwoman, a Savarna feminist, a Muslim man in love with a transwoman, and characters from different walks of life—like the curious old aunty engrossed in Noor's reality drama. But these labels don't define them entirely; they're just facets of their complex lives, as is often the case in reality. Moreover, they're free from conforming to idealized standards of behaviour. Especially impressive is the nuanced portrayals of the transwomen, who defy stereotypical categorization yet command our respect.

Along with this positive representation, there is also a representation of life that is as absurd as it is authentic. It delves into issues like sexism, the heterosexual saviour complex, heterosexual hypocrisy, and digital delusion. It is one of the very few films that question Savarna feminism. It questions the digital world, its systems, and how valid its impact on real life is. It questions how capable influencers are of influencing, especially when they might not know themselves well. The film stands at the junction of the digital and the real world and portrays our messy adoption of the former. What’s scary is that it stands very close to the truth.

One standout aspect of the film is how it presents sex in a liberating way. Some might see it as explicit, raw, and not to their taste. Yet, the film doesn't just exploit or voyeuristically depict sex. Instead, particularly in the scene where Asifa experiences orgasm on TV, it prompts us to question our own voyeuristic tendencies. Additionally, the film releases sex from the clutches of stereotypes. We witness a Muslim woman enjoying sex because she wants to, while another woman struggles to orgasm due to stress. A transwoman and her male partner share a gentle lovemaking scene, while for another transwoman, intimacy is proof of love. The film even features an Indian mother singing a song that includes moaning on stage. It's a sad thought but perhaps our largely conservative society isn't quite ready to fully understand the significance and intention of these scenes yet.

The actors bring the scenes to life with such sensitivity, it's truly remarkable. Tiwari's portrayal of Noor is absolutely stunning. You can feel the pain just by looking at Noor's expression, yet you can't predict her next move. Rajpurohit's performance, especially when she's enraged, sends shivers down your spine. Singh's portrayal makes you both despise and feel sorry for him simultaneously. Mukherjee shines in every role she takes on, and this film is no exception. The casting is spot-on, with each character delivering their role with genuine dedication and authenticity. However, I do have a concern about one casting choice: Anu Malik. While the film champions representation, casting someone who has faced sexual harassment allegations during the #MeToo movement feels contradictory.

Regardless, the movie doesn't let you down. Along with the sharp plot, its rich and creative cinematography and peppy background score keep you hooked. It leaves you feeling bewildered, puzzled, and even scared while raising the question, "Can we escape this digital nightmare?" Understandably, it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it keeps you engaged throughout and lingers in your thoughts even after you've left the theatre which makes it a worthwhile watch.

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