This Alankrita Shrivastava directorial is a conversation starter that begins to understand feminine mystique…
Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is a film I would love, that was established in the very first scene. Bhumi Pednekar’s Kaajal has recently shifted to Greater Noida from a small-town in Bihar. She’s escaped the small town notion of ‘beti jawan ho gai, shaadi karwa do’ and is here looking for a job. She wants to be independent, much like many small town girls. Konkona Sensharma’s Radha Yadav aka Dolly is a lot what Kaajal aspires to be, at least initially. Dolly and Amit (Aamir Bashir) are the perfect couple when you look at them from afar, as did Kaajal before she moved into their home. In the very beginning of the film, director and writer Alankrita Shrivastava tells us that no matter what the chaos in our lives, it’s always different, and difficult for women.
Dolly, Kaajal, Amit, Dolly’s two sons are at a fun fair. So much is happening around them, as it happens at every fun fair. Dolly and Kaajal are on this trail ride which takes them through a horror cave, with (replicas of) ghosts appearing from anywhere, and without any warning. That’s basically how horror works. On this ride, Kaajal tells Dolly that Amit Jiju wants to have sex with her, to which Dolly replies that she’s overthinking and it’s her hormones talking. In a single second after this, amidst the chaos, you see on Konkona Sensharma’s face the acceptance of the fact that what Kaajal is saying is indeed true, and the denial of it at the same time.
Even though a standalone film, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is a lot like a follow up to Shrivastava’s masterpiece, Lipstick Under My Burkha. Both Dolly and Kitty seem like they have been created from the remnants of Ratna Pathak Shah’s Bua Ji. Or that they’re both just younger versions of Shrivastava’s finest written character, whose interests lie in her swimming instructor. These three women, cut from the same cloth, are never looking to revolutionise female desire and sexuality. They’re all just looking for comfort. Having said that, both Dolly and Kitty are distinct voices. Even though they stem from the same place where But Ji stemmed from, they are different individuals with their individuality, and a lot of the credit for the same goes to Konkona Sensharma and Bhumi Pednekar – women who play these women.
Both Sensharma and Pednekar are personal favourites. In recent times, Sensharma is one of the very few actors I find irresistible. She’s so good on screen, it makes you want to wish you saw more of her. On most days, I go back to watching just a couple of scenes from Wake Up Sid! to see the wonders she does with her characters. Pednekar, on the other hand, is one of the most perfect examples of evolution in our industry. How she’s grown from strength to strength over the films that she’s been a part of is marvellous. Not that she was ever a bad actor, she’s always been more than good. But with every single film that she’s a part of, you see that she’s learnt from the minute mistakes she made in her previous film.
Konkona Sensharma plays Dolly, a very intricately written character. According to her, she’s living the life. Even though she is in a sexless marriage, there’s a lot that she has going for her. She has a family, a job that she does for just ‘fun’, an AC on rent, and a hope that their new apartment will be ready soon. These are the truths of her life, of course, until her younger cousin, Kaajal arrives. Sensharma is an actor par excellence. There is a quality to her, quite unexplainable, that keeps you glued to the screen whenever she’s on it. As Dolly, she’s exceptionally good. She performs as a true performer should – with her eyes, facial expressions, and body language. All it at once, and even in isolation. She’s a rare artist. Sensharma has a scene with Neelima Azim (who plays her mother) and that scene alone is a testament of how good and secure she is as an actor. This is one of her finest!
I can also say the same for Bhumi Pednekar. When Dum Laga Ke Haisha had released, I remember telling my friends that this girl has a beautiful career ahead of her. Things turned out that way for her. Pednekar plays Kaajal, and Kaajal is playing Kitty. It’s a very interesting character. Not like we haven’t seen women talking on the phone/radio in our films before. We obviously have, but Kitty is a far cry from all of them. She’s new to this world, of big cities, hopeless people, cheaters. Even Kaajal is new to all of this. She’s also new to unexplored realms of sexuality, both male and female. As a representative of Red Rose App, she has to talk love and sex to a variety of men. In one of the films most powerful scenes, we see Kitty talking to her initial caller. She’s hesitant, awkward, unaware. The guy wants to masturbate to Kitty’s voice. She doesn’t know what to do, so she sings a song as he helps himself. In that scene, you see how informed Pednekar is as an actor.
The biggest strength of Dolly Kitty is the chemistry between Sensharma and Pednekar. The best of this film comes out when they’re together on screen. Both Dolly and Kitty eat off each other in their lives, they’re also learning from and growing with one another. When Kaajal comes from Bihar to Noida and begins adjusting in her life, Dolly is reminded that she never adjusted to this. While Kitty explores western clothes like sleeveless tops and jeans, Dolly stayed restricted to her kurtas and sarees, and that eats her from inside. Both Sensharma and Pednekar tap into the vulnerability of this relationship and deliver together.
The men, Vikrant Massey and Amol Parasher shine in supporting roles. Both of them play agencies to Dolly and Kaajal, for them to understand what they want, and also what they definitely don’t want from their partners and even in their lives. Massey and Parashar represent real life issues, as do Dolly and Kitty. Massey is (spoiler alert) a married man looking for solace/sex on an online app. Parasher on the other hand is Muslim. So he becomes a representation of minorities. Both these men are very layered actors and give good performances.
Dolly Kitty is not the perfect film. It has its flaws, but most of the flaws lie in the writing, which Alankrita Shrivastava makes up for with her sense of direction. Stories of female erotica, female desire are less in number. After Dolly Kitty, Shrivastava alone has two such films to her credit. As a society, we don’t want to acknowledge that something like female desire even exists. Shrivastava taps into this denial and talks about repression, patriarchy, the idea of an ideal women, sex for women, the ignorance of men (in sex and in general), and the hypocrisy that exists.
A clumsy, convenient climax, a few loopholes here and there, too many pressing issues at hand – these are the flaws of Dolly Kitty. There’s also the horror (in Dolly) of your son being trans that Shrivastava’s film deals with very intelligently and emotionally. But, this, like many issues, is only touched upon lightly. But, despite these flaws, I’m very willing to watch Dolly Kitty again, which means that I did like it! And that’s only because Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare asks the correct questions (and of course, the performances). It questions ‘men will be men’ and in 2020, do we still need men to be men?
Allin all, whether or not you like the film, one thing is assured. Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is definitely a conversation starter. It aims to open dialogue in society and hopefully in every single small-town family which sends their Radha and Kaajal to bigger cities for them to become Dolly and Kitty.
Produced by Ekta Kapoor and Shobha Kapoor, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is now streaming on Netflix.
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