‘Love Sex Aur Dhokha 2’ review: Dibakar Banerjee simulates three virtual worlds, but it’s not clear to what end

I have never felt as listless after watching a film as I feel after watching Love Sex Aur Dhokha 2 in a near-empty hall.

Dibakar Banerjee is a very talented director with sharp story-telling skills. He has made fabulously entertaining films, like Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, and a sharply political one as well, Shanghai (2012).

In between he has sometimes served bland, insipid fare, like Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar

LSD: Love Sex aur Dhokha, the original, still has a cult following because its cinematic language — scenes shot through CCTV cameras, computer screens, and simulating a shaky, pixelated world of online sex and stings — was unlike anything we had seen before. And because one of the three stories it told (the first one, starring Rajkumar Rao), was so shocking, its violence so chilling that it carried the other two.

In LSD2, a sequel in spirit and format to the 2010 film, Banerjee tells three stories that are loosely based on what happens when all that is unreal becomes real. These are stories not just about how our lives are now split between the real and the virtual worlds, but how, increasingly, the real exists only to service our virtual lives, lies and avatars.

In each one Banerjee, with the help of his two co-writers, cinematographers, editor, a great cast of actors and interesting characters, creates an alluring world. 

But all of LSD2’s three stories feel incomplete, and as a whole, the film doesn’t come together. LSD2, in fact, ends on a note that is so vague and bizarre that it left me with a feeling best expressed by my favourite Hindi word: Hain

In LSD2, instead of the catchy Love Sex aur Dhokha, the themes are Like, Share and Download.  

First up is a reality show, Truth Ya Naach, with an anchor (played by Mouni Roy), three judges — Anu Malik, Sophie Choudhary, Tusshar Kapoor — and a handful of contestants living in a house.

The contestant LSD2 is most interested in is Noor (Paritosh Tiwari), a transgender woman who is trying to game the game to make enough money so that she can pay for the surgeries that, she feels, will make her a complete woman. 

This story dips and rises as Banerjee takes us behind the scenes to show us the show-runners’ obsession with followers, online trends and how marketing deals are negotiated and cancelled. Contestants are coerced subtly to pick a fight, make out, kiss in front of the camera, or call family members, friends and ex-colleagues to revive their wilting popularity and the show’s TRPs.

In Noor’s case it’s an estranged mother, and a love affair. In the midst of this tacky reality with scripted and rehearsed flare-ups, Banerjee throws in Annu Kapoor’s epic 2008 meltdown on the sets of a singing competition when he said that the choice of patriotic songs, and not singing talent, deserves more marks. 

But Banerjee, who has been facing censor troubles, replaces Bharat Mata with Maa ki Izzat (Mummy Ji’s Respect), and the scene ends up being a low-key dog whistle that doesn’t amount to much.   

The second story is about Kullu (Bonita Rajpurohit), a transgender woman employed by an NGO to work as a cleaner at a Metro station. Kullu has a boyfriend and a side hustle that is too embarrassing for the NGO, and its point person, Lovina (Swastika Mukherjee), to acknowledge and accept.

As Kullu’s life unravels after a sexual assault, the focus is on Lovina and how she puts out familial and professional fires.  

This story is not so much about the virtual world, but more about how we all now love, fight, get hired, fired, romance and pick up clues to a dying relationship through our smartphone screens. 

The third story is about Game Paapi (Abhinav Singh), a school-going boy who is a mega YouTuber and gamer. Here too, through Abhinav Singh’s frantic, fabulous acting, Banerjee simulates an interesting world. But the story goes so off-tangent that I can’t quite figure out what he was trying to say through his Meta Verse satsang (congregation). Maybe Banerjee was pointing to the strange happenings in the VR world where, four months ago, a gang rape was reported and is being investigated. Perhaps. But I am not sure, because Banerjee himself didn’t seem to be sure.

While watching LSD2, I was engrossed in its stories and somewhat invested in the main characters, but that was mostly because of its talented actors, Anand Bansal and Riju Das’ exciting cinematography, and Naman Arora’s editing that split regular scenes into small, off-key, out-of-focus pieces with disjointed body parts. At office meetings, staff stare at the top of their boss’ head or his tie, and when a lover is locked up or being beaten, helpless yelling from the other end of the phone can be silenced in a second, by pressing the end-call button.

There’s power in not showing the whole. And Banerjee uses the visually mutilated viewpoint of how we see the world and how the world sees us intelligently, creating mystery and urgency. 

We watch reality shows create and sell fiction, listen to influencers collaborate on a fight to create buzz, and shudder at our own inhumanity when a crime, viewed through a phone camera, is just a 90-second video that may go viral. 

But curiosity can’t make up for the lack of compelling storytelling. And that’s where LSD2 falters. It has visual bits and bubbles, but it lacks purpose. It doesn’t seem to know why it is telling us these stories. 

Movie: Love Sex Aur Dhokha 2

Director: Dibakar Banerjee

Cast: Mouni Roy, Tusshar Kapur, Swastika Mukherjee, Urfi Javed, Nimrit Ahluwalia, Anu Malik, Sophie Choudhary, Tusshar Kapoor, Bonita Rajpurohit, Abhinav Singh

Rating: 2/5