LSD 2 Movie Review: A scattered satire

LSD 2 Movie Review: A scattered satire

Dibakar Banerjee’s take on social media obsessions is more indulgent than musing
LSD 2(2.5 / 5)

In 2010’s LSD, a man points at a CCTV camera, breaks the fourth wall and tells us and the debutant actor standing beside him, “This camera is the key to a fortune.” If ever Rajkummar Rao gets a biopic, this is an opening scene contender. Fourteen years later, the line has lost its potent ominousness. Now it has become something a senile, old man tells a bored Gen Z kid who would rather be selling NFTs. “The camera is the key to a fortune? Duh.”

Director: Dibakar Banerjee

Cast: Paritosh Tiwari, Bonita Rajpurohit, Abhinav Singh, Swastika Mukherjee

With Love Sex Aur Dhokha 2, director Dibakar Banerjee, now 54, flips the camera towards the internet, the need for fame, for love, for validation. But his amalgamation of social realities—and social media realities—is often mismatched. We start with the makings of a reality show, cheekily titled ‘Truth Ya Naach’, an answer to ‘What if Bigg Boss and Nach Baliye had a love-child and all its activities were being streamed online?’ Contestants are dancing partners stuck in a house. There is a mechanism for each of them going ‘on-cam’ or ‘off-cam’. It’s no surprise that the more on-cam a contestant is, the more ‘approval ratings’ they get. It seems like an unsubtle metaphor for the need to post everything on social media.

The segment is centered on Noor (Paritosh Tiwari), a transitioning female, hell-bent on winning. The producers get her disapproving mother on the show for some drama, some ‘reality’. Reality is what everybody, from line producers to executives, is constantly harping about. The show can be streamed on an app but it has all the shenanigans of old-school reality TV. There is a mother-daughter melodrama, an audience poll and Anu Malik as a judge. The satire is rib-tickling at instances but wanes in excess. The vignette is often intercut with YouTube videos of content creators reacting to the happenings in the show. Meme-fying scenes, posting rant videos. It gets too on-the-nose. The spoof starts sidetracking the narrative and the segment becomes didactic.

The second vignette opens with a mobile camera footage of policemen in khaki hurrying towards some bushes. It seems like the imagery is designed to remind one of how the Hathras rape victim was shadily cremated by cops in the dead of the night. The victim here is Kullu (Bonita Rajpurohit), a transwoman, employed as a sanitation worker at a corporate-controlled Delhi metro station. From being a fight for justice, the case suddenly becomes bad PR for the company after there are hints of Kullu being involved in sex work. Parts of the story unfold over video calls as the executives decide upon a PR strategy. Dibakar along with writers Shubham and Prateek Vats (writers of Eeb Allay Ooo! (2019) gets in the dirt of the corpo-government nexus. A theme which was better underlined in his last directorial Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar (2021). The social media aspect takes a back seat in this film segment as it becomes bleaker and bleaker. It ends up with Kullu’s lover, a man suggestively named Ajmal Ghayal, being beaten by the cops and left for dead.

The makers return to social media with a vengeance in the final segment about an online gamer, Shubham aka Game Paapi (Abhinav Singh) whose subscribers shoot up after a video of his purported homosexual encounter spreads on the internet. We get into the attention-hungry world of young influencers. Even Urfi Javed makes a guest appearance. The story is scattered and tries to grab onto multiple arcs. Shubham is conflicted as this ‘newfound’ sexuality is getting him followers, no matter if they are coming to support or ridicule. This conundrum erupts as he becomes a suspect in the murder of a junior at school, who was ridiculing him over the video. The film goes into Black Mirror territory after this point. A boy, only wearing a VR headset is screaming in a foetal position, there are AI avatars of Hitler, Elvis Presley, Che Guevara, and Marilyn Monroe. Scenes are set inside an animated metaverse. In short, things go bonkers.

It is clear that these excesses are the makers’ way of blatantly expressing their take on how people are becoming slaves to virtual worlds. The feeling of ‘if you didn’t Insta it, did it even happen?’ LSD wasn’t commenting as much on the medium as it was on our deep desires of voyeurism. In the sequel, the medium sometimes becomes the matter-at-hand and other times stops mattering. In the 2010 original, the stories were told through different cameras: a camcorder, a CCTV and a spy cam, but in LSD 2 the POV keeps shifting. Sometimes characters become the camera and other times they are captured by invisible lenses floating around. There are no rules. Key to a fortune? The camera will soon tell the future.

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