Mumbai, 19 Sep 2020 13:00 IST
Bhumi Pednekar and Konkona Sensharma star as cousins in conflict as they try to live life on their own terms in this feature directed by Alankrita Shrivastava.
When Radha aka Dolly’s cousin Kaajal (Bhumi Pednekar) moves in with her family in NOIDA from Bihar, she drops a hint that her brother-in-law Amit (Aamir Bashir) makes her uncomfortable with his constant touches. Dolly (Konkona Sensharma) brushes off the younger woman, saying she might be confused.
The two cousins, who aren’t exactly close, have a complicated relationship in Alankrita Shrivastava’s Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare (2020). Initially, Dolly Yadav comes across as the typical housewife, but as the movie progresses, you see her as both flawed and layered, dealing with the hand life has dealt her. She sees Kaajal aka Kitty, due to her new job, emerging from her small-town shell in the big city, and aims to capture that which she has lost as well.
Kitty, on the other hand, wants to make something of herself. Moving out of her cousin’s house, she gains a bed in a home where surrogates and other working women live. She works nights as a phone operator at the Red Rose Romance app, chatting up lonely and horny men.
Even though she is conflicted about her job, Kitty slowly opens up to the freedoms she can now enjoy as a single professional woman. She goes out partying with her friend Shazia (Kubbra Sait) and learns to stand up for herself to Dolly.
Dolly, meanwhile, has to deal with sexist co-workers at her job, and manage the household. She and Amit have a non-existent sex life, as he believes she is frigid. Her younger son Pappu (Kalp Shah) is going through his identity crisis; he loves playing with dolls and make-up.
The more she watches Kitty forge a new path, the more Dolly tries to shake up her own life as well. Dolly also strikes up a relationship with a college student-turned-delivery boy Osman (Amol Parashar). The two women open and let their new selves emerge; however, the constraints set upon them, by society and by those around them, stifle them yet again.
Writer-director Shrivastava explored this theme in her earlier film, Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017), where Sensharma played another wife, Shirin, who was left unsatisfied with her lot in life. Sensharma pulls in another luminous performance, despite the numerous challenges thrown at her character, with a sub-plot addressing Dolly’s abandonment issues stemming from an absent mother (Neelima Azeem in a cameo).
She and Kalp Shah, who are in conflict constantly in the film, have a striking scene together inside a doll museum, as she finally watches him be happy. Like Dolly, we wonder and worry for his future — will he ever gain acceptance for who he is? But that’s a whole other film.
Pednekar’s Kitty starts out hesitant but confidently finds her voice as she makes it out of dodgy situations, especially when she gets involved with a client Pradeep (Vikrant Massey) and it ends badly. The actress is in fine form, portraying yet another small-town girl and displaying her hopes and dreams for her future.
The men of the story, from Bashir to Massey, play their ambiguities well. Parashar stands out as the sweet and sincere Osman who deserved more. The two cousins go up against each other for much for the feature before eventually understanding their respective struggles.
However, while both Dolly and Kitty head towards their eventual breaking point, Shrivastava puts in a lot for their characters to absorb. She literally burdens them with too many problems. There are just too many details to process in one viewing. There is a mention of caste, followed by the religious discrimination towards Shazia and Osman; meanwhile, Shazia’s boyfriend DJ Teja (Karan Kundrra) has a brother who leads a pack of goons who are against the Red Rose app and dating in general.
All this comes to a head at some event at the film’s finale where all the characters gather to see the unveiling of an art installation, which later becomes a literal attack on women. While the ending seems hasty, Shrivastava has carved out two nuanced female characters who are seeking fulfilment and happiness in their lives, like anyone else. It is their yearnings that remain with you.
Netflix is now streaming Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare.
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