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Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamake Sitare is a tale of ordinary women, their unfulfilled desires and aspirations told through a feminist lens.
Like Alankritra Srivastav’s earlier film ‘Lipstick under Burkha,’ ‘Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamake Sitare’ tells the story of ordinary women and their ordinary aspirations. And in the process, makes a statement on female sexual agency and women emancipation.
The movie is a slice of life account of parallel lives of two cousins who hail from a small town in Bihar and now live in Noida. Dolly in her 40’s (Konkana Sen Sharma) is the elder cousin who is settled in Noida with her husband and two children and lives a seemingly content life.
Meanwhile, Kajal (Bhumi Pednekar) is in her twenties and has recently moved to Noida. She’s moved to experience a life better than what an arranged marriage in a small town can offer.
Dolly is seen putting up her pretentious best to not just show the world how content her life is, but that’s something she strives to believe in. All this inspite of the emotional baggage she carries, of being abandoned by her mother as child and her sexual frigidity with the husband.
Her delusional persona is given away in the very first scene! Here Kajal complains to Dolly that her husband, Amit was making unsolicited advances on her. Dolly neither gets angry at her husband nor her cousin, she merely laughs it off by rubbishing her young cousin’s claim. That’s Dolly’s strategy of handling a messy situation by pretending it doesn’t exist.
Kajal, on the other hand, has the advantage of youth and freedom on her side. Her dreams are not constrained by societal shackles, responsibilities or mundaneness of predictability like her cousins’.
Kajal’s struggles are more to do with financial constraints as she has no job in a big city and no education on her side. The predicament forces to take up a job in romantic call centre assuming a caller identity of Kitty. She is expected to provide temporary company to young men on phone, where most calls end up seeking phone sex.
Kajal learns to cope with this new job by looking at it as an impersonalised service, like selling voice like how actors sell their acting talents. She makes new friends and explores the city life, which involves going on long drives with her friend and friends’ DJ boyfriend, drinking, dancing and partying.
These women are not strictly feminists. For instance, Dolly doesn’t make an issue with the school authorities when on a school outing her son is denied the choice to go to doll museum. Which is reserved for girls as against rail museum for boys. Nor is she initially sensitive towards her son’s growing signs of transsexuality.
But these women are not slaves of patriarchy and convention. Their sense of right and wrong comes from their empathetic nature and not so much from what they’ve read or been told.
In one scene, Dolly slams her cousin, accusing her of prostitution when she has to rescue Kajal from police station for making out in a public place. But immediately embraces her with sympathy when she finds out she was in love with that guy who eventually dumped her at the police station.
Similarly, Kajal though initially shocked by the free sex culture of the big city accepts her friend being a part of that culture. Kajal herself is not lured by it and neither does she judge Dolly, when she finds out about her adulterous affection for much younger boy or her friend indulging in prostitution. Women not indulging in slut shaming and being accepting and empathetic about each other’s lived experiences is welcome portrayal of female friendships in Hindi cinema.
My favourite scene in the movie is when the two sisters sit on the terrace, drinking and discussing their sexual problems. Dolly about her sexual frigidity issues with her husband and Kitty about how she bled but didn’t orgasm during her first time. These are not kind of conversations we can recollect seeing in a Hindi film.
The movie primarily rest on the shoulders of its lead actors and both of them do an impeccable job. Konkana does a brilliant job as a woman striving to preserve some spark in a life that is being lost in a mundane routine and loveless marriage. At the same time, Bhumi shines as a vulnerable small town girl learning ropes to navigate through city life.
Despite the heavy subject dealt with, the story is told in a light vein, which seems to be speciality of the director. However, there are fewer laughs as compared to the director’s earlier movie. And there some scenes which seemed contrived and put in there only to make a political statement. Such as religious fundamentalists surfacing often to indulge in moral policing.
On the whole Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is an engaging watch. It is quite similar in theme and presentation to ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha.’ However the issues faced by the women in this film are different than women in Lipstick Under My Burkha.
On the one hand, women in the earlier movie dealt with religious patriarchy and small town misogyny. The women in this movie deal with the safety issues in a big city, workplace sexism and a loveless marriage. But at the core of both the movies is the message of female sexual agency and women’s emancipation which is effectively delivered.
Picture credits: Still from the movie Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare
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Gnanapriya is a Bangalore based Banker, a passionate feminist with a keen interest in philosophy,
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