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The women in Dolly Kitty are strong with a desire to make their life better, but until mindsets and surroundings change, how much real difference can be made?
It is disturbing to watch Dolly Kitty aur woh Chamakte Sitare. In yet another assertion of female voices, director Alankrita Srivastava aptly captures the poignant moments of self-discovery in the lives of two women.
The protagonists are Dolly, and Kitty or Kajal. One, a young, naïve uninitiated woman and the other, an older woman who has learnt to live a life of shallow pretensions and hypocrisies. They share a bond, deeper and stronger than the familial ties that bind them.
In a hyperreal environment, the film opens to a moment of revelation. And the film picks pace as the two women find their lives muddling up and revealing instances of empowerment.
Women find voices in the film, which are at times bold, at times ridiculous, at times they find themselves betrayed and rudely brushed away, but these incidents always leave them stronger as individuals. They survive, they struggle hard, they pursue, they decide to find meaning in their lives even as the state fails them, repeatedly, in giving them jobs, in providing them housing, in protecting them from housing scheme scamsters, in multifarious aspects of their social lives that keep crumbling away.
The older woman Dolly’s life has an interesting trajectory in the film, the chai session in her office, being a typical example. She is a comparatively more well-thought out character, with her courage to accept her son for who he is, to accept her mother, and to build bridges with characters including Usmaan. Their backward caste identity is merely thrown in to complete the picture, since the thread of caste and gender definitions are hardly touched upon in this film.
But what makes the film disturbing is its apolitical treatment of several incidents that involve scenes of moral policing and the shootout at the DJ party.
While the film clearly envisages an empowered woman, the middle class woman, the Netflix-viewing category of women, it also prefers to maintain a stoic indifference to those instances of regressive misogyny that can have an impact on the lives of these categories of women.
Does the film believe that individualistic feminism, where the individual rises in power even as the social reality, the community in which she exists is an extremely, dangerously patriarchal one?
A violence that is truly against women, symbolically represented through the installation that is destroyed, and the people from the minority religious categories who are brutally attacked – happen around the protagonists. The larger picture of patriarchal oppression creeping in to the social fabric in the state is conveniently swept aside as the women survive, renew themselves and embark themselves on their journey towards self-discovery.
Sexual emancipation seems a possibility in the film, one that seems to fade away as a hegemonic patriarchal power, clad in saffron, assumes control over the installation, and over the bodies of women in the not-too-distant future.
As the film visualizes this reality, it seeks vainly to escape into economic freedom and a desire to return to the roots. Will that emerge as the route to individual freedom for women in contemporary India?
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