Alankrita Shrivastava’s latest feature, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, takes the argument of the deprived sexual desires of women and explores the way they negotiate these desires over the course of their lives.
In the film, Dolly (Konkona Sensharma) is a 40-something housewife with two small boys and husband. She holds an ordinary clerical job in some government office and is reduced to making tea for her boss. Kajal (Bhumi Pednekar), in her 20s, is Dolly’s cousin, who has come to stay with Dolly and her family in Noida to look for a job all the way from Darbhanga in Bihar to avoid being rushed into an arranged marriage. But dismayed at Dolly’s husband (Aamir Bashir) trying to get fresh with her, she soon shifts into a hostel for working women. She quits her job at a factory to join a call-centre filled with women run exclusively for sexy calls disguised with the phrase “I love you” by every male client. Kajal does not like this very much but she cannot quit as she needs the job and money. She soon learns the different moral codes of the girls and befriends one of them (Kubra Sait) who initiates her into the life young ladies living in hostels alone lead which includes sleeping around with a ‘time pass’ DJ boyfriend for an iPhone but hitching on to a rich promoter for marriage. Kajal streaks her hair, begins to wear fashionable clothes, smoke and drink and move around with her friend and her loud gang to ‘fit in’. Having to watch her roommate making it out with her DJ boyfriend in her presence in their room makes Kajal desperate to lose her virginity. The story of Dolly runs like a parallel track with her husband and two little kids, some parties with friends when she orders food from outside and dreams of the new apartment they have booked but are finding it tough to pay the instalments of. Sex with the husband is very dissatisfying for Dolly and she confesses to her husband that she did not enjoy it even during their Mussoorie honeymoon.
The best feature in Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is that Alankrita does not beat about the bush about their honesty, their transparency and their coming to terms with their sexual desires; never mind what others may think or feel or say about them. When Dolly’s husband calls Kajal’s parents to Noida for a showdown, Dolly is furious. But Kajal coolly picks her bag and walks out of Dolly’s home. The metamorphosis of Kaajal into ‘Kitty’ is much more sharply etched than the change in Dolly, who realises that just as Kaajal had pointed out, in all these years, Dolly has never been to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Like most marred wives, her mind is totally focused on the new flat, on the AC she so much desires. She also sells her jewellery to pay for the instalments on the flat.
In spite of dealing with just two central characters, Alankrita has put too many eggs in her basket, which makes the script go a little out of control as she does not bring the many sub-plots to any logical end, which makes them all the more superfluous. One such track is Dolly’s younger son’s desire for dolls, or, putting on his mother’s make-up or wearing his mother’s bra under his shirt in school for which Dolly rebukes the son instead of trying to understand his problem. This argument is not taken forward satisfactorily at all. Another is the row created by so-called, self-styled saviors of ‘Bharatiya Sanskriti’, who crowd around the call-centre’s office to force it to pull down its shutters. It is Kajal’s turn to rise to the occasion and deliver a loud speech to silence the crowd. This is not just a cliché but also high melodrama that doesn’t serve the film well. The third sub-plot concerns the back story of Dolly’s mother who drops in to see her daughter and her family but is turned out rudely by her daughter because she cannot forgive the mother for leaving her as a little girl to walk out with another man. This weak link could easily have been kept out without harming the film in any way. The closures, too, are quite complicit with melodrama not expected from such a frankly intended film.
The music and the songs, all on the soundtrack, are very good but the film could have done with only one. The editing is smooth and keeps the film moving. The cinematography and the film’s color palette could have been a bit subdued but perhaps the director has intentionally made it so colorful and loud to keep in rhythm with the film’s bold plot and also to highlight the Noida ambience filled with loud Punjabis and Delhi immigrants.
The director has drawn out good performances from her entire cast. Konkona does not need special mention as her excellence is a consistent quality. Bhumi slips into Kajal and her journey from diffidence to aggression as if she was born to play this character. Aamir Bashir as the husband with an eye for you-know-what is natural and controlled. Karan Kundra as the local DJ adds a dose of loud entertainment to the film while it is a pleasure to watch Neelima Azim infusing a negative character with much audience sympathy in a brief cameo as Dolly’s estranged mother. But easily, the most outstanding performance comes from Amol Parashar as the delivery boy, Usman. He plays a very low-key and difficult role and leaves his mark on the film.
However, script issues aside, one also feels let down when every feminist film – and this is certainly a feminist film – ends up painting the male characters with different shades of black. Vikrant Massey as Kajal’s client is a married man with a child who pretends to leave everything for Kajal yet leaves her behind in jail to get his freedom. The real estate agent is an extortionist’s agent while Dolly’s husband has slippery hands – and voice – where young women are concerned. Why? Is it because weak and negative men make the women stand out more sharply than they would otherwise have? Or, do feminist filmmakers – men and women – really believe that the feminist statement the film is trying to make stands out in relief only when the men are painted as weak and dull and dark? Or will the stars not shine if the men are strong and non-patriarchal? This is a moot point to consider.
Hindi, Drama, Color