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Patricia Puentes

“Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “Lightyear”: All Pixar Movies Ranked

ghost stories (2020 film)

Since Lightyear , Pixar’s 26th film, just dropped on Disney+ last week, it’s now easier than ever to watch all of the famous animation studio’s movies. With this in mind, we’ve ranked every Pixar film, from the groundbreaking Toy Story in 1995 onward.

Even though we relished a few of these animated classics, and even though the studio has a history of pushing the limits of storytelling with some of their more idiosyncratic and quirky offerings, there are still many criticisms that could be made about Pixar. 

The company has been chastised for sidelining women and people of color . Only one of the 26 movies in their filmography was solely directed by a woman — 2022’s Turning Red , which was directed by the Canadian Chinese filmmaker Domee Shi ( Bao ). While 2012’s Brave credits Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman as co-directors, she was taken off the movie halfway through its production. 

The Mexican American Adrian Molina is credited as the co-director of Coco (2017) and the playwright Kemp Powers, who’s Black, was the co-director of Soul (2020). But you’ll mostly find an array of white male directors in Pixar’s roster. 

Pixar’s former head, John Lasseter ( Toy Story , Cars ), was ousted in 2018 after being accused of a pattern of workplace misconduct and sexual misconduct . Pete Docter ( Up , Inside Out ) replaced Lasseter as chief creative officer and has been credited for fostering more of an emphasis on diversity and inclusion at the company. 

In March of this year, Pixar’s LGBTQ+ employees and their allies released an open letter denouncing how Disney has censored same-sex affection in their films . (Disney purchased the animation studio in 2006.) Lightyear , which premiered on June 17, featured the first same-sex kiss and openly queer character in a Pixar movie. 

The Ranking Method

Let’s say there’s a method to the ranking here— a fairly scientific one. All of Ask Media Group’s editorial team members voted on the movies they’d seen, ranking them from 1–5. 

Here’s the system we used:

1     You can skip it 2     Meh 3     Good enough 4     Must-watch 5     Masterpiece

Our Social Media Editor Bryn Rich has watched the entire Pixar filmography but one title — Lightyear — and has lots of opinions on how the four Toy Story movies should be ranked. Per Bryn’s recommendation, it should be: “ Toy Story > Toy Story 3 >>>> Toy Story 4 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Toy Story 2 .” Then there’s our Editor Lecia Brown, she admits not watching a lot of movies but she has seen a ton of Pixar ones with her godchildren. 

We averaged everyone’s votes but we also had in mind what critics and audiences at large have to say about these titles, so we added Rotten Tomatoes’ rankings — both the critics’ Tomatometer and the audience score — to the equation. As a result, each of the movies got a 1–5 score that determined their spots on the list. Here’s our final ranking of every Pixar movie. The titles have been organized from worst to best.

26. The Good Dinosaur (2015)

ghost stories (2020 film)

What if the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs missed? Who would walk the Earth? Not sure many of us actually cared. Only one person on our team watched this movie and The Good Dinosaur was deemed Pixar’s first box-office disaster . That’s probably why it ended up in the last position.

25. Cars 2 (2011)

ghost stories (2020 film)

The most generous members of our team have given this second installment of the car-talking and racing franchise a simple “Meh,” while others deem it perfectly skippable. Most of us didn’t even bother watching it. You’ll see that, when it comes to Cars , we aren’t exactly enthusiasts. We’re not alone either: this movie holds a 39% approval among critics and a paltry 49% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

24. Cars 3 (2017)

ghost stories (2020 film)

The third, and hopefully last, entry in the Cars universe finds Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) trying to prove he’s still at the top of his game as a racecar. 

The film was decently reviewed when it debuted but the previous installment of this saga didn’t help its chances of warming our hearts or getting us into the talking-vehicles mode. 

23. Lightyear (2022)

ghost stories (2020 film)

Our Editor Kate Bove was tempted to give Pixar’s newest entry a bare minimum 1 but she decided to bump it up to 2 just for the Black, Indigenous and queer representation in the movie. “I was happy to hear the voices of Keke Palmer, Uzo Adubo and Taika Waititi,” Kate says. And she makes a very fair point. Our Updates Editor Jenna Ciotta gave the movie a 3. So this is one of these cases where representation is doing a lot for this otherwise flawed title. 

Lightyear returns once again to the often-tapped well of Toy Story and explores the origin story of the Buzz Lightyear action figure the movie is based on.

22. Cars (2006)

ghost stories (2020 film)

I’ve never found the idea of anthropomorphized vehicles very enticing. Most Pixar titles have been successful because they appeal not only to children but grown-ups too, but Cars most definitely felt like young-children fare. (And a way to sell toys.) What else can I say? Cars is the reason I never bothered watching Cars 2 or 3 . 

This film had some allure though. Actor Paul Newman voiced the blue Hudson Hornet Doc Hudson . It was one of his last projects as an actor.

21. Finding Dory (2016)

ghost stories (2020 film)

With an overall score of 3.35 — when you average the team’s votes with the Tomatometer — things start getting somewhat interesting here. Granted, this is yet again another sequel and Pixar’s been lauded mostly for its original narratives. 

But there are still a lot of takeaways from this tale about the importance of found family and the pleasures of taking risks and even venturing to travel outside of your comfort zone. 

20. Brave (2012)

ghost stories (2020 film)

Pixar’s first movie centering a female protagonist is number 13 in its filmography. The movie stars Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald as the voice of Merida, a headstrong young princess set on breaking with tradition and not marrying one of the sons of her father’s allies. Emma Thompson also stars as Elinor, Merida’s mother. 

What should have been Pixar’s big bet on female representation ended up diluted when director Brenda Chapman was removed from the movie. In the end, Brave was but an assortment of good ideas (and a bright red curly mane) that didn’t manage a solid enough story. 

19. Monsters University (2013)

ghost stories (2020 film)

Let’s add yet another sequel to this list, this one to Monsters, Inc . (2001). I guess one of the advantages of animation is that you can do prequels without having to worry about digitally de-aging or recasting your protagonists. 

In Monsters University , we see Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) and Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) meeting in college and learning how to be “Scarers”…

18. A Bug’s Life (1998)

ghost stories (2020 film)

Probably the main issue with Pixar’s second film is that it premiered a couple of months after another animated title that also featured little bugs as its protagonists: Antz . The DreamWorks title boasted celebrity voice performances by Jennifer Lopez, Sharon Stone and Woody Allen — long before the sexual abuse allegations against the actor and director were newly reexamined in the HBO docuseries Farrow v. Allen (2021)

So you may have skipped A Bug’s Life altogether just because you felt you’d already watched the movie in its Antz iteration.

17. Luca (2021)

ghost stories (2020 film)

We have lots of opinions about this dreamy coming-of-age story that sees its protagonist Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) spending the most magical of summers in the Italian Riviera, eating gelato, riding bikes (and Vespas), swimming in the Ligurian Sea and shutting up that inner voice that tells him not to take risks (“Silenzio Bruno!”). The movie is also a metaphor for the idea of feeling different or excluded and what it means to feel like you belong. 

And while Luca can be seen as yet another example of Disney’s queerbaiting problem — where the attraction between the two sea monsters and teenagers gets teased but falls short of representation — Enrico Casarosa, the film’s director, has said they were thinking about race , and not sexuality, when making this movie about outsiders, but he’s happy the metaphor is being read in different ways. 

You can read our full review of Luca here . 

16. Onward (2020)

ghost stories (2020 film)

After a few years in which Pixar had almost exclusively thrown sequels at us — Finding Dory (2016), Cars 3 (2017), Incredibles 2 (2018) and Toy Story 4 (2019), with the exception being 2017’s Coco — it was nice to enjoy a movie like Onward where you’d be pressed to describe its premise.

This movie has gotten a 1 from our Social Media Editor Bryn, a 2 from our Editor Kate, a 5 from our Editor Lecia and a 3 from me. So you could say we were most definitely divided. It’s still a great watch if you want to enjoy an adventure with a healthy dose of brotherly love. 

15. Toy Story 2 (1999)

ghost stories (2020 film)

When it comes to the long-running Toy Story franchise, Bryn may be onto something because, in the end, our ranking resulted in more or less his take on how these movies should be classified.

But just so that we refresh your memory in telling all the Toy Story films apart, this is the one where a collector steals Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), which forces Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen) and the rest of the gang to come to his rescue. 

14. Toy Story 4 (2019)

ghost stories (2020 film)

The latest entry in the Toy Story property showed once again that Pixar knows how to execute a script perfectly. All of the story beats are there, but the fourth installment of Woody’s tale still feels repetitive and slightly formulaic. Yes, our gang of toys was — yet again — deeply invested in a rescue mission with a tight deadline.

Keanu Reeves, who voices the Canadian toy motorist Duke Caboom, contributed to some of the novelty and freshness of this story. But all in all, and even though it premiered in 2019, it felt a lot like the same dish Pixar has been cooking since 1995. 

13. The Incredibles (2004)

ghost stories (2020 film)

We’re entering must-watch territory here as The Incredibles is the first movie on our list with a score higher than 4. Before superheroes started being ubiquitous at the movie theater, Pixar and director Brad Bird ( The Iron Giant ) devised this story about a family of supers where the patriarch is going through a midlife crisis. He wants to quit his boring job at an insurance agency and simply go back to chasing baddies. 

Fortunately, he has an exceptional family that’ll come to the rescue when he gets in trouble and needs them the most. 

12. Turning Red (2022)

ghost stories (2020 film)

Pixar’s first film solely directed by a woman has already become one of our favorite 2022 movies . In Turning Red , Mei Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) is a 13-year-old overachiever faced with the reality of entering puberty and poofing into a red panda every time she feels overwhelmed or stressed out.

The movie deals with the subject of learning how to handle your inner beast but also staying true to yourself. It has the added bonus of being set in 2002.

You can read Turning Red ’s full review here . 

11. Soul (2020)

ghost stories (2020 film)

Pixar’s first movie with a Black lead protagonist and co-directed by a Black filmmaker — Kemp Powers — along with Pete Docter was only made in 2020, but it was a triumphant return of the studio to their unconventional fare in films like Inside Out (2015), Up (2009) or WALL·E (2008).

In Soul , Jamie Foxx voices Joe Gardner, a New York City music teacher and aspiring professional jazz pianist. He finally manages to make it into the jazz scene the same day that he accidentally falls down a manhole. As a result, his soul ends in the Great Before, the place where new souls find their personalities. Needless to say, Joe will desperately try to make it back to his old life. 

10. Incredibles 2 (2018)

ghost stories (2020 film)

In the case of Incredibles, the second installment is most definitely superior to the first one. It also arrived at the perfect time, on the heels of the #MeToo movement and in a moment where there was a higher push to have parity when it comes to female characters in leading roles. 

So it was only fitting that in Incredibles 2 , Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) stayed home to take care of the kids while Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) took a job fighting crime. That being said — and even though the movie passes the Bechdel test — at the end of the day (and the movie) Incredibles 2 ’s feminism fell short . 

9. Ratatouille (2007)

ghost stories (2020 film)

This story is about a rat who wants to be a professional chef and ends up helping a not-specially-talented restaurant employee to become a successful cook. You can classify it as one of the many imaginative titles in Pixar’s most creative era preceding 2008’s WALL·E and 2009’s Up . 

On the other hand, if the idea of a rodent in the kitchen makes you as uncomfortable as it does me, it may be a bit of a tough pic to swallow. 

8. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

ghost stories (2020 film)

It’s difficult not to get moved by this story about a company that uses terrified children’s screams to obtain energy. Especially considering that the two leading monsters responsible for scaring kiddos — Mike Wazowski and Sullivan — are quite cuddly and adorable and end up realizing that they actually like young humans.

7. Finding Nemo (2003)

ghost stories (2020 film)

Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) is an overprotective clownfish and single father of Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould) after his partner Coral (voiced by Elizabeth Perkins) and all of their other eggs were killed in a barracuda attack on their quaint oceanic neighborhood. As a result of that incident, Marlin has become more than averse to any type of risk-taking.

But when the little Nemo finds himself lost and captured by humans, Marlin will have to venture into the great ocean to get his son back. He’ll have the inestimable help of Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), a Blue Tang with short-term memory loss.

6. Toy Story 3 (2010)

ghost stories (2020 film)

If, like me, by this point, you’re having problems telling all of the Toy Story movies apart. This is the one with the mean-but-still-cuddly-and-cute-pink teddy bear Lotso (voiced by Ned Beatty). 

In this movie, the toys find themselves in a daycare center after having been donated by mistake. Convinced their human Andy discarded them, the toys feel a bit betrayed. Woody tries to convince them that it all was an accident but, more urgently, they realize that getting played with by toddlers is not for the faint-hearted. 

5. Toy Story (1995)

ghost stories (2020 film)

Pixar’s first ever feature got a 4.5 score when we combined the votes from our editorial team with Rotten Tomatoes. The movie is a technological feat, even though if you watch it now you’ll notice how much animation has evolved in the last more than 25 years when it comes to textures, lightning, hair recreation and even the depiction of eyes.

But mostly this is a movie that has endured the passage of time for the story at its heart: that of the cowboy toy Woody learning how to cope with the idea that he’s no longer the only favorite toy to his human Andy and sharing that spotlight with the slightly vain Buzz. 

4. Inside Out (2015)

ghost stories (2020 film)

We’re getting into prime Pixar territory here with a movie that offers a front-row seat into the inside of a teenage girl’s mind. The premise of Inside Out is that all of us are governed by a mixture of sadness, anger, fear, disgust and joy and that the key is to find the perfect equilibrium among all of them. Because too much of anything — even joy — can sometimes be unbalancing. 

3. Coco (2017)

ghost stories (2020 film)

We have a soft spot for Coco at Ask, three of our editors gave this movie a 5 and another two members — me included —- think it’s definitely must-watch material. Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, this love letter to Mexico and its Día de los Muertos tradition gets the viewer to reconsider their relationship with their family, their passions, their loved ones who have already died and even music.

On top of this heartfelt story about the young Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) and his dream of becoming a musician, Coco is just a beautiful colorful film to look at, especially in its portrayal of the land of our ancestors. 

2. Up (2009)

ghost stories (2020 film)

What can I say? Up ’s sequence illustrating Carl (voiced by Edward Asner) and Ellie’s love story as a couple growing older together gets me every time. 

But after starting big and managing to make the viewer cry right at the beginning of the movie, the film also tells the tale of the 78-year-old Carl on his way to enjoy the adventure he’s been waiting for his whole life. 

When Carl takes off with his flying house propelled by balloons, he realizes the tenacious wilderness explorer Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai) has stowed away in Carl’s house, set on getting another badge. What follows is a story of friendship, rebelliousness and the many places where you can find paradise.

Oh yes, and dogs really are obsessed with squirrels . 

1. WALL·E (2008)

ghost stories (2020 film)

This cautionary tale that managed to capture a quite plausible and not-so-distant future if humans keep set on our continuous consumerism, disregard for the health of the planet, and obsession with screens, stars the little garbage-disposal robot WALL·E. When WALL·E meets the scout robot EVE — EVE is looking for signs of life on Earth where WALL·E still resides — WALL·E can’t help but fall in love with EVE.

What follows is a robotic love story, yes. But also a fable about the power of thinking outside the box, (literally) standing up and following our dreams. 


ghost stories (2020 film)

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Ghost Stories

Sukant Goel, Mrunal Thakur, Sobhita Dhulipala, and Janhvi Kapoor in Ghost Stories (2020)

The winning team of "Lust Stories" reunites to tell some spine-chilling tales. "Ghost Stories" is a 2020 Indian anthology horror film consisting of four short film segments. The winning team of "Lust Stories" reunites to tell some spine-chilling tales. "Ghost Stories" is a 2020 Indian anthology horror film consisting of four short film segments. The winning team of "Lust Stories" reunites to tell some spine-chilling tales. "Ghost Stories" is a 2020 Indian anthology horror film consisting of four short film segments.

  • Zoya Akhtar
  • Dibakar Banerjee
  • Karan Johar
  • Niranjan Iyengar
  • Janhvi Kapoor
  • Surekha Sikri
  • Amruta Subhash
  • 344 User reviews
  • 27 Critic reviews
  • See more at IMDbPro
  • 2 wins & 7 nominations

Trailer [OV]

  • Sameera (Zoya Akhtar's segment)

Surekha Sikri

  • Mrs. Malik (Zoya Akhtar's segment)

Amruta Subhash

  • Off-Screen Nurse (Zoya Akhtar's segment)

Vijay Varma

  • Guddu (Zoya Akhtar's segment)
  • Cop 1 (Zoya Akhtar's segment)
  • (as Mohammed Ashique Hussain)

Anil Nagarkar

  • Cop 2 (Zoya Akhtar's segment)

Sobhita Dhulipala

  • Husband (Anurag Kashyap's segment)

Pavail Gulati

  • Father (Anurag Kashyap's segment)
  • Child Actor (Anurag Kashyap's segment)
  • Nurse (Anurag Kashyap's segment)
  • Reiki Woman (Anurag Kashyap's segment)
  • Twin Sister 1 (Neha) (Anurag Kashyap's segment)
  • Twin Sister 2 (Neha's Twin Sister) (Anurag Kashyap's segment)

Sukant Goel

  • Visitor (Dibakar Banerjee's segment)
  • Little Boy (Dibakar Banerjee's segment)
  • Little Girl (Dibakar Banerjee's segment)
  • Runner (Dibakar Banerjee's segment)
  • Niranjan Iyengar (Karan Johar's segment)
  • All cast & crew
  • Production, box office & more at IMDbPro

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Bombay Talkies

Did you know

  • Trivia Ghost Stories is the third of three anthology films from Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap, being preceded by Bombay Talkies in 2013 and Lust Stories in 2018.
  • Crazy credits Even though the name of the character from the second segment is said out loud a bunch of times (Ansh), he's listed as Child Actor in the end credits.
  • Connections Followed by Lust Stories 2 (2023)
  • Soundtracks Madhaniya by Asees Kaur & Deedar Kaur

User reviews 344

  • sajid-42905
  • Jan 1, 2020
  • How long is Ghost Stories? Powered by Alexa
  • January 1, 2020 (United States)
  • Những Câu Chuyện Ma Ám
  • Tiger Baby Films
  • See more company credits at IMDbPro

Technical specs

  • Runtime 2 hours 24 minutes

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Ghost Stories

2020, Horror, 2h 24m

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Ghost stories   photos.

From the directors of "Lust Stories" and "Bombay Talkies" comes four short films that take a twisted turn into the spine-chilling realm of horror.

Genre: Horror

Original Language: English (United Kingdom)

Director: Zoya Akhtar , Dibakar Banaerjee , Karan Johar , Anurag Kashyap

Producer: Ronnie Screwvala

Release Date (Streaming): Jan 1, 2020

Runtime: 2h 24m

Production Co: Netflix

Cast & Crew

Janhvi Kapoor

Surekha Sikri

Vijay Varma

Sobhita Dhulipala

Neha, Wife, Evil Crow

Pavail Gulati

Sukant Goel

Aditya Shetty

Eva Ameet Pardeshi

Little Girl

Mona Matthew

Mrunal Thakur

Avinash Tiwary

Jyoti Subhash

Kusha Kapila

Zoya Akhtar

Dibakar Banaerjee

Karan Johar

Anurag Kashyap

Ronnie Screwvala

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New on Netflix in January 2020

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Ghost Stories

  • Credits 
  • Image gallery  [1]

All images are copyrighted by their respective copyright holders and/or producers/distributors.

Ghost Stories

  • Sobhita Dhuliwala

Mrunal Thakur

  • Vijay Varma

Surekha Sikri

  • Kusha Kapila
  • Avinash Tiwary

Raghuvir Yadav

  • Pavail Gulati
  • Sukant Goel
  • See all credits
  • "This isn’t the best example of what India can do in the field, but it’s a start (…) Rating: ★★½ (out of 5)"  Jonathon Wilson : Ready Steady Cut
  • "Kashyap’s short is brilliant, as overtly disturbing as it is suggestive. The others are imminently skippable."  John Serba : Decider
  • "There are some tastes better left forgotten and others one hopes will be expanded into fuller, even more terrifying forms."  Bilal Qureshi : The New York Times

All copyrighted material (movie posters, DVD covers, stills, trailers) and trademarks belong to their respective producers and/or distributors.

User history

Ghost Stories

Movie Review: Three Misses, One Hit in Netflix's 'Ghost Stories'

Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar and Zoya Akhtar have collaborated on another anthology – this time of horror short films.

Movie Review: Three Misses, One Hit in Netflix's 'Ghost Stories'

A still from 'Ghost Stories'.

Tanul Thakur

After Bombay Talkies (2013) and Lust Stories (2018), four Indian filmmakers – Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar and Zoya Akhtar – have collaborated again on an anthology, Ghost Stories , now streaming on Netflix.

Their earlier movies revolved around cinephilia and lust, while this recent release, as the name attests, deals with horror, a genre that Akhtar and Johar have not tried before – though technically neither have Kashyap or Banerjee, but at least their past films explored darker human psyches. It seems fitting, then, that Ghost Stories starts and ends with shorts by Akhtar and Johar: two ‘novices’ ushering us in and out of this world – a relatively risky endeavour in a film about fear.

Akhtar’s short, Nurse – opening with a scene comprising recognisable horror film tropes (an overcast sky, a woman standing alone in a vast landscape marked by distinct cawing, a hen dropping dead to the ground) – signals an amateurishly ‘spooky!’ intent, but soon relaxes to find a more natural rhythm. Here, we meet Sameera (Jahnvi Kapoor), a young nurse in charge of an elderly ailing lady, Mrs Malik (Surekha Sikri), who, battered by delusions, keeps calling out for her son, Armaan. He’s nowhere to be seen or heard.

Also read: In a Tumultuous 2019, These Four Hindi Films Brought Out Our Shared Humanity

Akhtar sets up compelling parallels between the two women: Sameera is attractive in the present, Mrs Malik was in the past. Sameera waits for her boyfriend, Guddu (Vijay Varma), Mrs Malik for Armaan. Both have suffered the consequences of familial abandonment.

Akhtar uses mirrors to depict these similarities. There are several scenes where Sameera sees her image – sometimes reflected in one, at other times in multiple mirrors. When she wears Mrs Malik’s brooch, and looks at her reflection, whom does she see: herself or her patient? Later, we see them sitting side by side, their images locked in a nearby mirror. Sameera and Mrs Malik have something else in common: the long, desolate hallway connecting their rooms.

Nurse is a story of morbid hope – of premonition – where Mrs Malik hears a doorbell before it’s rung, thinking it is Armaan (not too different from Sameera’s wish that Guddu will come to see her). The conceit of premonition is also built in the segment’s aural design: in several scenes, we first hear the sound and then see its accompanying visual. There’s also some cheeky wordplay (“Do you think I’m deaf” said by Mrs Malik sounds a lot like “do you think I’m dead”).

But despite these technical ingenuities – and attention to detail – Nurse , ending with a banal twist, doesn’t quite work. Akhtar has taken a small, affecting story and tried to force-fit it into the genre of horror. Somewhere between wracking the nerve and brushing the heart, her short loses its way.

Kashyap’s segment, Bird , is centred on a young pregnant mother, Neha (Sobhita Dhulipala), who babysits her nephew (Zachary Braz) during the day. Presumably by accident, the similarities between Nurse and Bird are remarkable. Both derive their dramatic mileage from a ‘failed’ childhood (Neha, we’re told, couldn’t be a good daughter; the karmic question, then, seems: is she even allowed to be a mother?), feature mirrors in key scenes, make frequent use of hallways and involve pain-alleviating pills.

Neha’s house has an attic, hosting a nest, a crow and a few eggs. Every now and then, Neha feeds the crow, in effect caring for the eggs. The parallels here, too, between the two ‘characters’ are quite evident: the stairs leading to the first floor seems similar to the small ladder attached to the attic. The crow, like Neha, is a mother-to-be. Neha, by caring for the crow, is trying to atone for her childhood sins. We appreciate the implication: the house is a nest, and Neha is the crow.

Many of Kashyap’s feature films work as excellent, isolated set pieces – where a good film form materialises with full force – but often fail to come together as a whole. The director, by that reason alone, should make impressive short films (and his piece for me, in Lust Stories , was the best of the lot). Bird , though, isn’t nearly half as impressive. You can pick and dissect, and be sporadically impressed by individual frames and stray strands of motifs. There’s enough ambiguity here to keep you guessing – is this a story of multiple miscarriages, of a distant oedipal bond, of a lifelong guilt – but it struggles to find a sense of cohesion. Bird , in essence, lacks an umbilical cord, continually connecting the audiences with the director: the filmmaker’s baby, as a result, is stillborn.

Banerjee’s segment, Monster , is more symbolic than Kashyap’s and is by far the best piece of the quartet. It opens to an anonymous man (Sukant Goel) – identified as “Visitor” in the end credits – entering a deserted countryside, Bisgarah (“Smalltown”). The place has just two survivors, both of them unnamed – “Little Boy” (Aditya Shetty) and “Little Girl” (Eva Ameet Pardeshi) – who detail the laws of the land. The Saugarah (“Bigtown”) people, Visitor is told, “ate the people of Smalltown”. To temporarily survive, the people of Smalltown began eating their own. The rules, as explained by Little Boy, are these: “If you move, you’ll die; if you speak, you’ll die; they don’t eat those who eat.”

A dominant society setting the rules for others, which, if not followed, can spiral into you getting lynched. These rules reduce people of Smalltown to non-people, worse than ‘second-class citizens’, who are forced to self-annihilate. The Bigtown people, in contrast, have become cannibals; moving zombie-like, they all look the same from a distance – a terrifying commentary on the perils of monoculture. (At the end of the film, we finally meet the ‘real’ people of Bigtown, who have nothing but disdain for Smalltown – especially Councilman (Gulshan Deviah), who asks Visitor, “Are you interested in history? Bigtown was once a touchstone mine. It was the capital of the state. We’ll be great again.”)

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Monster is an excellent example of layered and symbolic storytelling. Using clever hints, Banerjee constantly sustains our interest. When Visitor enters an abandoned classroom, we see an incomplete map of India – with nearly its entire western coast, including Gujarat, erased – on the blackboard. In the next scene, Smalltown’s school principal is vomiting in the courtyard, standing near a tricolour drooping from a pole. A complex film, designed to inform by being obscure, succeeds not because it is difficult to understand, but because it invites multiple points of engagement and interpretations: it compels you to revisit the piece (a crucial element lacking in Bird ).

Further, Monster has wonderful performances (Shetty, in particular, deserves praise for portraying a dubious boy with deceptive ease), even has flashes of humour and is marked by consistently impressive writing. It has some powerful visuals (especially of Visitor holding hands, begging for mercy from a bloodthirsty mob, which is disturbingly reminiscent of Mohammed Naeem , in Jharkhand, a few years ago). But a truly remarkable bit about this short is how it resists simplification, right till the very end, while still being riveting. We don’t even know its design: was it a dream or was it real? Perhaps a bit of both: a (bad) dream slowly becoming real.

Among all the filmmakers, Johar has perhaps had the most fun in the last two versions of this series. Unburdened by audiences’ expectations and producer’s demands – of making a blockbuster – he’s given himself space to breathe. His short in Bombay Talkies felt personal and poignant, while his Lust Stories piece was deliciously subversive and meta. Here, though, like Akhtar, he seems to be burdened by form, of making a ‘horror’ film, and as a result, his is the most trope-ey and disappointing segment of the lot.

Granny is about Ira (Mrunal Thakur), a young woman marrying an affluent man, Dhruv (Avinash Tiwary), who seems to have an unhealthy obsession with his (dead) grandmother. Dhruv needs her permission for everything; he wishes her good night, without fail, as a daily ritual. Even the housekeepers are in awe of the old lady.

Ira, quite justifiably, feels spooked and sidelined. It’s a very Rebecca -like set-up, the similarity finding echoes in story (replace the dead wife with the dead grandmother), characters (shifty housekeepers) and production design (a claustrophobia-inducing mansion). But Johar’s methods of invoking horror are painfully clichéd: characters shooting menacing glances, a door creaking open, the housekeeper standing with a flashlight held close to her face (even when the room is washed with light).

Johar gives us very little to hold on to, except brief flashes of meta commentary. I laughed out loud when Ira bursts into “fuck you granny” and, later, the granny returning the favour with, “Look at my fucking face.” A different decade, a different medium and an incredible amount of change: 2001, 19 years later, seems to belong to a different century now, when it was “all about loving your (grand) parents”.


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